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Recently, a colleague created a warm up question:

How many people are in your family?

And the model answer was:

I have 4 people in my family; my mother, my father, and my 2 brothers.

While this is not incorrect, some of my students as well as myself thought this was odd to exclude the person giving the answer in the final tally. It seems to me that it would be more common and preferable to say:

I have 5 people in my family; my mother, my father and my 2 brothers.

It should be obvious to everyone that the person answering the question about his family would include himself in the total count.

What I would like to know is how native English speakers would respond to the question when you have your father, mother and 2 brothers.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this question has nothing to do with the English Language. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 5:27
  • David, hello. This is a great question but not a good fit for this site. I'm not sure where else it can fit on SE. Hopefully, another user can advise you on this. Good luck. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 5:28
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    "I have # people in my family" doesn't sound right. "I have # brothers" is fine, as is "There are # people in my family". I'm trying to think of a general rule for when it should be "I have" and when "there are", but I'm failing.
    – AndyT
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 10:08
  • @AndyT How about if I say "I have # people in my family I can rely on"?
    – haha
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 10:48
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    @haha - Not sure. I think I'd prefer "There are" for that one, but "I have" doesn't sound too bad. As I said, I have no real rule for when it should be one or the other.
    – AndyT
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 10:58

1 Answer 1

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No: there is a difference between I have and There are.

  • I have four people in my family.
  • There are five people in my family.

I have excludes the person doing the having. This may be a convention, but it can be rationalised by considering that one does not have oneself: one can only have something else. There are is an "external" count and so will include everyone.

The word other can be inserted in both, which removes any possible ambiguity from the first, and alters the scope of the second, by deliberately excluding the speaker:

  • I have four other people in my family.
  • There are four other people in my family.
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