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Ok, see these examples:

How many days on earth equal a day in heaven?

How many calories equal a pound of weight loss?

We have no problem so far, right?

Now suppose I want to emphasize a day in heaven and a pound of weight loss, so I put them into the beginning like this:

A day in heaven equals how many days on earth?

A pound of weight loss equals how many calories?

Do those two questions still sound right when we put How many in the middle of the sentence?

If not, then how can we emphasize a day in heaven and a pound of weight loss"in question sentences?

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  • Your two questions above look fine to me grammatically. But "calories" are positive measures of energy, and cannot equal weight loss,
    – Margana
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 13:14
  • When 'be' and equivalents (eg 'equal') are used in the equivalence role, the noun phrases are interchangeable (though some variants may sound less natural). Up is the opposite of down. Three times two equals five plus one. How many days in heaven correspond to a day in heaven? A pound of weight loss corresponds to how many calories? Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 13:20
  • Questions work best when they use normal question ordering, which means putting the wh-word in the first position and using subject–verb inversion.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 13:26
  • Please don't assume that the important words have to go at the beginning. The end of a sentence is a strong place too. Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 22:12

2 Answers 2

2

A day in heaven equals how many days on earth?

A pound of weight loss equals how many calories?

Those sentences are typical of a format used in tests and quizzes. They are perfectly acceptable but unusual outside those contexts. You would rarely hear someone say them that way in a conversation.

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  • Yes, those sound unusual in conversation. Hence my comment to the QA.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 13:26
  • I kind of got myself in a twist with this answer. It's okay but I'm planning to improve it when I can see how (and after a break!). Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 13:32
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If you are determined to reorder the question so "how many" is central you could add something like:

"Is it possible to even calculate how many days a day in heaven would equate to on earth?"

or, if you like the semi-colon (which I do).

"A day in Heaven; How many earthly days would that equal?"

In that vein;

Calories; How many must be lost to equal a pound of weight lost?

1
  • it is kind of complicated expression
    – Tom
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 13:56

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