Is it okay to say "What was the number of" meaning "How many"? For example, "What was the number of students that came here yesterday?"


It's grammatically correct, but in an informal context, it would be more likely to say "how many".

  • So I can't use this phrase in an informal talk with my friends? – brilliant Jan 13 '11 at 19:49
  • Sure you can, and it wouldn't seem that weird. I guess "how many" is more ordinary and casual, while "what is the number" strikes me as something said by someone that was more interested in the answer, or in a technical, legal, or official context, but it's a fine distinction. I'm North American, by the way. – Nick Jan 13 '11 at 19:52

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