# "Expect to" vs. "Expect will"

Which of the following is correct?

How many sales do you expect to make more than \$470?

vs.

How many sales do you expect will make more than \$470?

If both are correct, which is preferred in the context of a math test involving the normal distribution?

The intent of the problem is this: Given a normal distribution with a mean of 400 and a standard deviation of 70, find the probability that any randomly selected data value will be greater than 470.

## EDIT:

By popular demand, I have now replaced the word "make" with the word "earn."

How many sales do you expect to earn more than \$470?

vs.

How many sales do you expect will earn more than \$470?

• As given, I guess they mean the same, so it's a "stylistic choice". But I feel the first is a bit ungainly/potentially confusing, in that it could grammatically end after the word "make". So you've got to discard that potential interpretation - which doesn't arise with the second example, since it can't finish before the actual end of the sentence. Nov 2, 2012 at 5:39
• @FumbleFingers see my comment on Fortiter's answer below. The test requires knowledge of the normal distribution and predicting values any particular sale will "make". Or "earn" I guess would be a good substitute. Nov 2, 2012 at 6:13
• How about something like, "How many sales do you expect to be made at a sales price of more than \$470?"
– Jim
Nov 2, 2012 at 6:31
• I find that the use of sales is ambiguous here. Are you talking about individual items sold or total sales of many items? IOW, I might expect three sales to make more than \$470 (each) or I might expect three to earn me more than \$470 in toto. Nov 2, 2012 at 6:36
• @coleopterist It doesn't matter. The intent of the problem is this: Given a normal distribution with a mean of 400 and a standard deviation of 70, find the probability that any randomly selected data value will be greater than 470. I'm just giving it a real-world context. Nov 2, 2012 at 6:43

I do not believe that

How many sales do you expect to earn more than \$470?

is a proper sentence.

On how many sales do you expect to earn more than \$470?

and

How many sales do you expect will earn (somebody) more than \$470?

are correct.

Of far greater concern in a mathematics test is the potential for multiple interpretations of "make". Does it refer to the selling price secured or to the profit earned? In everyday use, either could be meant.

• In the context of the test, the normal distribution of sales has a mean of \$400 and a standard deviation of \$70, so the kids aren't going to read too deeply into the word "make." They're going to figure out the probability of a random data value falling higher than 470. I guess an okay substitute would be "earn" but again, it's a math test not an English test. Nov 2, 2012 at 6:09
• I do appreciate your input, but I would rather see it in the comments section as it is not technically an answer to my question. Thank you for your feedback though. Nov 2, 2012 at 6:11

The wording is somewhat ambiguous for a maths test. I expect to exceed that benchmark figure in a single sale, being a great salesman. "How many individual sales of product X in one day will exceed the daily target of \$Y?"

• Ok then, which is correct: (1) "How many individual sales of product X in one day do you expect to exceed the daily target of \$Y?" or (2) "How many individual sales of product X in one day do you expect will exceed the daily target of \$Y?" Nov 2, 2012 at 6:48
• My point was not to use emotion words like expect and other fillers that can also make the question more ambiguous. Expectation is linked to guessing, which is not what students are expected to do in this task? Nov 2, 2012 at 14:41
• Expectation is not always linked to guessing. The students are supposed to calculate a probability, which is interpreted as a mathematical expectation. For example, the probability that this die that I'm holding will land on 5 is 1 in 6. So if I roll this die 60 times, I can expect it to land on 5 about 10 times. I didn't just guess that number. Nov 2, 2012 at 22:49

They're both grammatically correct. The one to use is the one that your students will understand without having to think about what it might mean. Maybe you can change expect to think in the second sentence and use that:

(A) How many sales do you think will make more than \$470?

or

(B) How many sales do you think will earn more than \$470?

or

(C) How many sales do you think will be greater than \$470?

Sentences (A-C) are easier to understand, IMHO. I don't know how old your students are or whether they're native speakers of English.

• Just because using "think" instead of "expect" forecloses a potentially trivial misparsing by incompetent speakers is no reason to justify the switch. Would you have OP only address his students in words of one syllable, to avoid taxing their linguistic skills? Personally, I think "think" there could be seen as carrying something of the sense of "guess", whereas "expect" might imply "on the basis of what you know or can work out". Nov 2, 2012 at 5:51
• No, but I would expect him to remove linguistic barriers to demonstration of the ability that is actually being assessed. It is called "test validity". Nov 2, 2012 at 5:54
• I would rather use the word "expect" because that implies the students use their knowledge about the normal distribution, and make the according calculations. The normal curve is used to predict the outcome or probability of an event, so using the mean and standard deviation, the students are supposed to predict how many sales will "earn" (thank you) more than \$470. Using the word "think" implies the students can use a more intuitive approach and just guess. Nov 2, 2012 at 6:17
• @Fortiter: Yes, you've hit it: Test validity. Is it going to be a math test or an English test? Too many tests claim to measure one thing when they're actually measuring another. The most common testing error is requiring the testees to be high-level readers of English (with advanced vocabulary & cultural knowledge) before they can demonstrate their visual or math skills. IQ tests, e.g., are far too often English achievement tests. In addition, I don't know how old the OP's students are, so I can't judge whether it's better to use mono- or multisyllabic words. Make it a math test.
– user21497
Nov 2, 2012 at 7:01
• @TestSubject528491: I think your argument about using expect rather than think is valid and totally reasonable. And you're the teacher, so you know what you want them to understand. It's your choice, and I agree that expect is the more reasonable option in this case.
– user21497
Nov 2, 2012 at 7:04

How many games do you expect to win?

vs.

How many games do you expect will win?

In the first example, "you" is the subject and "games" is the object (you are doing the winning, and the games are being won). It would be better worded as:

How many games do you expect yourself to win?

In the second example, "games" is the subject (the games are doing the winning) and there is no object ("win" is being used as an intransitive verb).

If the sales themselves are earning more than \$470, then I think "sales" is the subject. So the second one sounds right. Correct me if I'm wrong.