Is this question grammatically sound? It sounds slightly weird to me, and not sure if it can be paraphrased. Could somebody clarify please?

  • "Of how many girls did you ask their name?" Is that what you meant? Who were you asking - the girls themselves or someone else? – WS2 May 14 '17 at 12:38
  • @ABC, Do you normally ask for somebody's name? How many girls are/were there you asked their name? How many girls did you ask their name? – mahmud k pukayoor May 14 '17 at 12:51
  • It's asking somebody else. I want to ask the number of girls who've told him their names. And how many he has approached to ask their name. I hope it's clear now. – ABC May 14 '17 at 12:56
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    If you wanted to retain for, you could reasonably ask How many girls' names did you ask for? Note that this (and many alternative phrasings) would often leave it ambiguous as to whether you asked the individual girls themselves for their names, or simply requested a list from someone else. – FumbleFingers May 14 '17 at 13:03
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    In any real conversation the information being sought is: “How many girls’ names did you get?” Followed by a question to see how good they really are: “And how many did you ask?” – Jim May 14 '17 at 15:08

I don't think the question makes any sense in its current form. A corrected version might be:

How many girls did you ask for their names?

I'm not exactly sure if "names" should be plural or singular, since the number agreement is complicated in this form (since you're presumably asking each girl for just one name, her own).

The question might also work with the "for" omitted completely. Whether "for" is required, optional or forbidden may vary by dialect (I'd almost always use it myself).

Note that having "for" at the end of a question can work in a different context. For instance this seems perfectly valid to me as a native AmE speaker:

How many dollars are you asking me for?

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  • Oh wow, thank you! The way you phrased it makes perfect sense. Plural version sounds better to me even though it might not be technically correct. – ABC May 14 '17 at 13:21
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    I think the fact that the sentence employs "their" means it is plural "names". I suppose one could say "...did you ask for her name?". But I feel comfortable with plural throughout. I don't however feel comfortable with no "Of" at the start, but I am British and of a certain age. – WS2 May 14 '17 at 15:07
  • I think I'm a little less unsure of the plural "names" than my answer make it seem. The way I wrote it is definitely the best of the options available, but it's just awkward enough that I might prefer rephrasing the whole sentence to avoid the strange number agreement. As for a leading "of", I'd definitely not use it for the meaning I was going for where you're counting the girls (who you asked their own names), rather than counting names asked of some other person. But it sounds like sentence may expose even more subtle variations between dialects of English than I though! – Blckknght May 14 '17 at 20:33

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