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We have: "it takes two to tango", "two is company; three is a crowd", etc... Are there any similar sayings that refer to four people?

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    It's not English, but I quite like the Irish one: ceathrar cóisir, cúigear comhluadar “four’s a party, five’s a crowd”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 24 '14 at 19:05
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    The poem my grandmother used to quote to me went something like "Two's company/Three's a crowd/Four's too much/And five's not allowed"... but I can't seem to find a reference or the rest of it online. – Digital Chris Nov 24 '14 at 20:11
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    From Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. – Barmar Nov 24 '14 at 20:42
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    From¹ Orson Welles: “My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people.” – James Waldby - jwpat7 Nov 25 '14 at 0:33
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Two is company three's a crowd. Four on a sidewalk is not allowed.

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No. Not a very common one, at least.

The reason there are expressions for one, two, and three is because of the special status accorded to a couple in the culture where the expression originated.

So: there are lots of "one" expressions indicating that one person is not enough to have a one-on-one relationship. "Table for one." "One is the loneliest number."

There are "two" expressions, like "It takes two to tango," indicating that "two" is enough to have a one-on-one relationship.

There are "three" expressions, like "third wheel" or "three's a crowd," indicating that those people not in the one-on-one, couples, relationship, are extraneous. Three in this case stands for "more than two," and no special "four" or "five" expressions are needed.

The only think I can think of that even remotely qualifies is "fourth wheel," probably a back-formation from "third wheel." If you have three people, a couple and a single, at an event together, the couple may try to set up the single with a "fourth wheel" to keep him or her from being a "third wheel."

People talk about trying to find a "fourth" for bridge or golf, but that doesn't sound like what you're talking about. Similarly, the "Fourth Estate" is a group of people, but again, that's more specific than your examples.

To summarize: when it comes to idioms, any person more than two is a third, no matter how many of them there are.

  • I've read that there are some primitive societies that don't even have words for numbers higher than 3, they're all just lumped together as many. – Barmar Nov 24 '14 at 20:45
  • @Barmar - "Many" is "three". More than that is "lots". (Source: Troll counting in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett.) – AndyT Sep 26 '17 at 14:27
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Four is a party and Five is a mob. I read that in an old school textbook but I can't remember the name.

  • It would help to find a reference when posting answers like this. – Mark Beadles Sep 26 '17 at 16:25
  • Digital Chris, with virtually the same response, used a 'comment' as he had no supporting reference. When you gain enough rep, you will be able to do likewise. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 26 '17 at 16:32

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