how many is a billion?

newname

Senior Member
Vietnamese
Hi,

How many is a billion?

Is it correct? and if it is, is it a short form of 'how many zeros is a billion?

Thank you a lot.
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi newname

    "How many is a billion?" is comprehensible, though I'd probably expect a different question - maybe "What is a billion?"

    "How many zeros is a billion?" really doesn't work, I'm afraid:(.
     

    waltern

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I might ask a child learning such things "How many zeros are (there) in a billion?", expecting an answer of 9.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Hi,

    How many is a billion?

    Is it correct? and if it is, is it a short form of 'how many zeros is a billion?

    Thank you a lot.
    "A billion" means "one billion". It is a number, no different than "ten". Both are used to count things. For example, apples.

    How many is "ten"?
    How many is "a billion"?

    These are correct sentences, though I think the quotes are needed. This is what they ask:

    How many apples is "ten apples"?
    How many apples is "a billion apples"?

    Neither sentence is asking how many zeroes are used to write the number (1, 9).
     

    newname

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    Thank you.

    I should have given the context where I met this question. An instructor was teaching IP version 6. (And I think some of you here know that IP version 4 only gives us 2^32 addresses.)
    He briefly mentioned IPv4 and then went on about how many more addresses IPv6 can give us. It gives us billions. And he asked, 'But how many is a billion?'

    So I inferred that he wanted to know if learners knew how big a billion was.
    Also, the question was shown on the slide so I cannot be wrong.

    @dojibear
    If I understand correctly, the singular 'is' is used because it can be rephrased like this
    'Ten. But how many is that number?'
    ' You say a billion apples. But how many is that quantity?'

    I think this is perhaps the only situation where 'how many' precedes the singular 'is'.

    Thank you.
     
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