Do you have any questions? I have so many.

Dictionaries indicate that many here is a pronoun; it is certainly standing in for the noun questions.

If this is so, how could the adverb so modify a pronoun?

If it is not a pronoun (because adverbs can't modify pronouns), what part of speech is many?

  • 1
    I think it's an adjective - I have many questions being implied. Mar 5, 2020 at 9:09
  • @Kate Bunting In I have many questions, no modern grammarian would argue against 'many' being a quantifier, and certainly not an adjective. Mar 5, 2020 at 10:16
  • 3
    'Many' is a pronoun when not accompanying a noun, though it obviously corresponds to the quantifier usage I have many questions. But you need to add at least some basic research; dictionaries have become more aware of the adjective – quantifier divide. // 'So' in this sense is usually kept in the adverb catch-all; one could compare "I haven't very many." It is certainly an intensifier. Mar 5, 2020 at 10:29
  • @EdwinAshworth AFAIK, most dictionaries classify the many as a pronoun. Hence the question.
    – listeneva
    Mar 5, 2020 at 10:29
  • 1
    Can you give links in your question to all the dictionaries defintions of 'many' that you've encountered and what they say about POS? I just checked MW for many and it has both pronoun and adjective entries. So it can be one or the other depending on context. Some words can be both (like 'my').
    – Mitch
    Mar 23, 2020 at 14:01

4 Answers 4


Dictionaries indicate that many here is a pronoun; it is certainly standing in for the noun questions.

If this is so, how could the adverb so modify a pronoun?

And yet it does. This is possible as "many" is basically an adjective, although its history is complicated and involves another word that was a noun.

https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/many Many can be used in the following ways:

as a determiner (followed by a plural noun): It happened many years ago.How many children have you?

as a pronoun: ‘Did he write any other books?’ ‘Not many.’ (followed by ‘of’): Many of you will be going on to university.

as a predeterminer (followed by the indefinite article ‘a’ and a singular noun): We shall not see each other again for many a long day.

as an adjective (after a word such as ‘the’, ‘his’, or ‘these’, and followed by a noun): He said goodbye to his many friends.

as a noun in the phrase ‘the many’: The few who behave badly spoil the enjoyment of the many.

The cause of this is that “many” started as two nouns mani (a large amount) and meinie (a household group of servants, etc.)

OED: II. As noun. [It appears that the phonological identity in late Middle English of many and meinie n. [Edit to add = a group; a crowd; a family or clan] in some regions led to a virtual merger of the two words. Hence many occurs from the 15th cent. onwards as a noun (used both independently and with a following partitive construction introduced by of ) […] [it] continued to be spelt and pronounced many, while the equivalent uses of meinie became obsolete, except in Scottish English.]

Variation in Old English in the vowel of the first syllable [is] caused by the substitution of the suffix *-īg for *-æg in very early Old English (compare -y suffix)

The –y suffix is used to convert a noun to an adjective. Might -> mighty; sugar – sugary, etc.


A. adj. (determiner). Designating a large (indefinite) number.

  1. Modified by the adverbs as, how, so, too. (See also so many at so adv. and conj. 37†)

“There were so many sheep, I could not count them”

B. pron. and n.

I. As pronoun.

4.a. Modified by the adverbs as, how, so, too.

eOE Laws of Ælfred (Corpus Cambr. 173) xxxiv. 68 Gerecce hu manige þara sien.

1990 F. Weldon ‘Darcy's Utopia’ (1991) (BNC) 106 How many died ..in that particular disgraceful military episode, so that the workers should be duped yet again in the name of the Empire?

The example could equally be "So many died ..in that particular disgraceful military episode, and the workers were duped yet again in the name of the Empire.

†So (adv.)

  1. so many a. Such a (large) number (of). 1812 G. Crabbe Tales ii. 30 Believe it..glorious, to prevail, And stand in safety where so many fail.

The result of all this is that “many” is basically an adjective that is also a noun in a similar way to “The rich live in castles; the poor live in the fields.” And “This is government for the many, not the few.” Here it is clear what “many” means. An alternative view is that "many (noun/pronoun) is, in fact, "meine".

However, many as a pronoun (without a definite article), like other needs a referent: “We here are well-fed but many are ill” – Many what?

  • 1
    I don't know about your "result" of 'many' being similar to 'rich/poor'. The latter requires "the", and "the rich/poor" does not refer to "the rich/poor people" (the specific group of people) but "rich/poor people" in general. In contrast, "many" does not require "the", and "the many" does refer to "the many people" (the specific group of people) but not "many people" in general.
    – listeneva
    Mar 7, 2020 at 6:26

"So" when used to mean "to great degree" (2a1) is an adverb. Adverbs only modify "a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a preposition, a phrase, a clause, or a sentence [...]" (list has been shortened, click link for full list). If "so" is an adverb and is modifying "many", "many" must be one of these parts of speech.

It clearly isn't a verb, another adverb, or a proposition.

Clause, sentences, and phrases aren't parts of speech, so we'd still have to analyze it further if it were one of those.

From this non-exhaustive list, it could only possibly be an adjective. Looking at the entire list from the definition I quoted, it still seems like the best fit.

So, if it is an adjective, then what is "many" describing?

There are many sentences with understood subjects that don't always need to be stated. These are most commonly used in commands or as a response to a question. I believe that this is the case here.

To summarize, "so" is an adverb modifying the adjective "many", which is in turn describing the understood and unstated subject "questions".

  • What does CED say about 'many' being an adjective? Mar 5, 2020 at 13:36
  • @EdwinAshworth If you wish to discuss something, feel free to directly bring it up.
    – JRodge01
    Mar 5, 2020 at 13:39
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    Might I suggest that you look up 'determiners' here, and 'adverbs modifying nouns?'? // 'I have so many' has an understood object, if anything. Mar 5, 2020 at 16:13
  • @EdwinAshworth You're not being direct with your feedback, which makes it hard to address. What exactly is the point you're trying to make? I don't understand.
    – JRodge01
    Mar 5, 2020 at 16:22
  • (a) << describing the understood and unstated subject "questions" >> is incorrect. (b) the link you give is therefore to an example that involves a different type of deletion. (c) Few grammarians, if any, would regard 'many' as an adjective in any usage. See, for example, Huddleston & Pullum (CGEL) pp 538-9. Mar 5, 2020 at 16:43

I wouldn't describe "many" as a pronoun.

Do you have any questions? I have so many [questions].

Do you have any questions? I have many [questions].

Do you have any questions? I have three [questions].

Do you have any questions? I have a lot [of questions].

I can't think of any examples where you would use a pronoun and its referent noun phrase together (e.g. *"They Bob and Mary said 'Yes'."). It looks like ellipsis to me, so "so many" or just "many" would be a determiner.


The Stanford Log-linear Part-Of-Speech Tagger would classify many in that example as an adjective as @Kate Bunting mentioned in the comments:

enter image description here

Do_VB you_PRP have_VBP any_DT questions_NNS ?_. I_PRP have_VBP so_RB many_JJ .

VB Verb, base form
PRP Personal pronoun
VBP Verb, non-3rd person singular present
DT Determiner
NNS Noun, plural
RB Adverb
JJ Adjective

Source: https://www.ling.upenn.edu/courses/Fall_2003/ling001/penn_treebank_pos.html

  • This shows that even such professional-looking aids are suspect. 'Many' usually occurs as a premodifier. But it does not describe an inherent attribute of the modified noun. From ThoughtCo_Nordquist: 'In English grammar, a determiner is a word or a group of words that specifies, identifies, or quantifies the noun or noun phrase that follows it.' 'Many' before a noun group is a type of determiner (specifying the relation the referent bears to the context / environment) known as a quantifier. Never an adjective. Mar 23, 2020 at 13:00
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth: "...'Many' before a noun group is a type of determiner..known as quantifier." where is the noun after many? I don't see any.
    – Jay
    Mar 23, 2020 at 17:05
  • It's a pronominal usage here. I'm pointing out that it can't be an 'adjective used as a noun' etc, or whatever other justification may be put forward to justify the Many_JJ tagging, as it's never an adjective even in its primary role. Mar 23, 2020 at 17:10
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth I have never heard of an adjective having a pronominal usage. This is just a typical case of 'subject omission': 'verb phrase ellipsis' or 'anaphora' as you call it. OED specifies this function in 2 (in plural) a. Many individuals of the kind specified (either anaphorically or with of and noun phrase (in Old English also with noun in the genitive)). Also: without anaphora: many people. // example: [(1985) L. Griffiths Arthur Daley's Guide to doing it Right 8]: Many would say that I was a sensitive youth. [...]
    – Jay
    Mar 23, 2020 at 17:20
  • 1
    [...] I think the professional aid is smart enough to detect anaphora and that many is adjectival to 'many questions from the previous clause. // . . . Btw, me, the program or Katie never said it was 'an adjective being used as a noun' . . . but perhaps it may be an adjective NOT in the protoypical position (the noun position) but that does not make it a noun.
    – Jay
    Mar 23, 2020 at 17:27

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