I have a question about how to make a certain type of question.

There is the statement here:

The airplane has twice as many engines as it requires.

I want to make a question the answer to which is:

twice as many engines as it requires

which specifically emphasizes twice as many. Not a yes/no question, but a wh/h question.

I asked some native speakers of English and they provided me with sentences like:

How many engines does the airplane have?


How many more engines does the airplane have?

But I think the answers to those questions, for example for a plane with 8 engines, are "eight engines", and "four more engines", not "twice as many engines as it requires".

I made the following question but I wonder if it's grammatically correct:

How many times as many engines as required does the airplane have?

Does anyone have a better suggestion?

  • 1
    How many more engines does this plane have than it requires?
    – Joe Dark
    Nov 12, 2014 at 19:32
  • 1
    Discussions involving recursion belong on StackOverflow.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 12, 2014 at 19:58
  • 3
    You are focussing on getting the exact answer you want, but there is no ready "structure" that produces it, therefore to force the answer to match your requirements, the question is unnaturally tortured and not likely to be used in everyday discussion. Instead focus on what information you need to elicit- is it the absolute number of "redundant" objects ("How many more than it needs does this thing have...?"), the redundancy factor ("What %age of things are surplus in this scenario...?") - Both deliver the information you ask in more easily digestible formats and using more natural questions
    – Marv Mills
    Nov 12, 2014 at 20:13
  • 2
    "Unnaturally tortured"? This entire enterprise is unnaturally tortured. 99.999% of English speakers manage comfortably without this forum. We are snoots who come snorfelling around for debates about the finer points of language. Look at the most popular questions and talk about "everyday discussion"...
    – Rusty Tuba
    Nov 12, 2014 at 20:40
  • 2
    The question with the most votes on this site is "how do you quote a passage that has used '[sic]' mistakenly?" Clearly people come her to debate the finer points of language and engage in thought experiments, many of which reveal interesting things about our language. If we ranked the debates by how "enlightening" they are or how commonly people encounter the particular conundrum, the site would look quite different...
    – Rusty Tuba
    Nov 13, 2014 at 2:10

6 Answers 6


Okay, the concept of "times" or "factor" is - if I've read all your comments correctly - critical. So how about:

How many times the required number of engines does this airplane have?


By what factor does this airplane’s number of engines exceed the requirement?

The answer to both questions cannot be:

The airplane has eight engines.

Nor can it be:

It has four more engines than it requires.

The answer (given a required 4 but extant 8) must be:

The airplane has twice as many engines as it requires.


I think the exact question is:

How many times as many engines does the airplane have as it requires?


The airplane has how many times as many engines as it requires?

  • That is similar to the question I made... Is mine incorrect or just another way of saying that? Thanks Nov 12, 2014 at 20:18
  • @Sharaman: I think yours is correct too. But this way it sounds a bit better to me. These kind of questions are not common though.
    – ermanen
    Nov 12, 2014 at 20:21

How many more engines than it requires does this airplane have?

The answer to this question, as per the Original Poster's request, is:

-It has twice as many engines as required.

  • I think this is the best answer so far, but note that another answer to that question might be It as two more engines than required. I.e. it could be answered additively or multiplicatively.
    – Barmar
    Nov 12, 2014 at 19:26
  • @Barmar This is true ... Nov 12, 2014 at 19:27
  • Thank you. But the answer to your question, for example in the airplane with 8 engines, is '4 more engines'. Not 'twice as many'... I know they are the same here. But the point here is not just trying to convey the meaning, but to find the exact structure... Nov 12, 2014 at 19:39

If the answer is:

"The airplane has twice as many engines as it requires."

The question might be:

"Does the airplane have twice as many engines as it requires?"


"What is the plane's reserve engine capacity?"
The point we are attempting to make is that if we need two engines for a particular mission, we will fly with four. Thus if two engines fail, the mission can still be accomplished.

  • No, not a Yes/no question... but a wh/h question the answer to which is twice as many Nov 12, 2014 at 19:11
  • @Sharaman: See my EDIT Nov 12, 2014 at 19:17

I think the question is a little weird (just explain what you're asking to the listener), and since the purpose of communication is to communicate, it seems odd to try to torture out a specific sentence that answers these very narrow requirements, but I would offer up the following:

What percentage of excess engines does the airplane have? Since we can all turn percentages into factors easily, I think it answers the spirit of the question, if not the exact requirements.


You could ask "How many surplus engines does it have?"


NOUN (1)

  1. a quantity much larger than is needed;
  • The answer to that question could be "four," which is not the required answer.
    – Rusty Tuba
    Nov 12, 2014 at 20:00
  • If the emphasis is on the surplus factor, i.e. "100%" or "twice as many" definitely being part of the answer I reluctantly agree. However to produce the exact answer requested requires some tortured questioning :)
    – Marv Mills
    Nov 12, 2014 at 20:05
  • What is a "surplus factor"? Nov 12, 2014 at 22:47
  • The factor by which one quantity is surplus to another? To differentiate a surplus expressed as a fraction, percentage or ratio from a surplus expressed as an absolute quantity
    – Marv Mills
    Nov 12, 2014 at 23:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.