How many/much is a billion?

Mustermisstler

Senior Member
Spanish.Spain
Hello everyone,

I came across the question below while surfing on the Internet. And It really has me confused.

How many is a billion?

And my question is : Why not , how much is a billion?

Thanks
 
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  • Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    The question doesn't make sense either way. A billion is a billion. It's like asking how much is two. But if I had to choose, I'd say 'how much'.
     

    vincix

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Well, apart from its weirdness, I guess it depends on what that billion represents. If they are people, then it's how many, if it's cheese, then it's how much, right? You might ask this question if you want the other person perhaps to represent or show to you visually what this really means, to have a good perspective on it.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The question doesn't make sense either way. A billion is a billion. It's like asking how much is two. But if I had to choose, I'd say 'how much'.
    It makes sense, because once upon a time there used to be a difference between US and UK billions (Oxford Dictionaries), I quote:

    In British English, a billion used to be equivalent to a million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000), while in American English it has always equated to a thousand million (i.e. 1,000,000,000). British English has now adopted the American figure, though, so that a billion equals a thousand million in both varieties of English.

    Some people may not be aware of this fact.;)

    I would also ask "How much..?", in any case.
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    I think it's intended to mean "How many units/ones make up a billion?" From that perspective, I think it's understandable if someone uses many.
     

    Mustermisstler

    Senior Member
    Spanish.Spain
    If it is of any help, I got that question from an article about the difference between British English and America English when it comes to defining what a billion is.
    In British English 1,000,000,000,000
    In American English 1,000,000,000
     

    vincix

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    For me (non-native, of course), Mustermisstler's examples do make sense.
    A few people came and told me that you're a good person.
    How many is a few?
    It should work, right? And, of course, in a similar way with "much/few, many/some and much/some."
     

    vincix

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    < No longer needed. Cagey, moderator. >

    <As> I wrote in my previous post, I don't think it's wrong in the right context. I might not be correct, but that's what I think. Feel free to correct me, as a native speaker.
     
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    Neo-Dio

    New Member
    Spanish - Spain
    The question makes perfect sense.
    In USA (and Canada too maybe) a billion is one thousand of millions (1.000.000.000) while for the rest of the world a billion is a million of millions, as mustermisstler has already pointed out.
    How much? How many? Since the question is not refering to anything in particular, I would use "much" because it is the one for uncountable stuff (abstract object in this case).
     

    vincix

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    London calling has already explained that the difference between the American and British units is no longer current. In both systems, one billion means one thousand billion. For the rest of the world, 'a billion' (miliard in Romanian, Milliarde in German) is not a million million, it's also one thousand million.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    London calling has already explained that the difference between the American and British units is no longer current. In both systems, one billion means one thousand billion. For the rest of the world, 'a billion' (miliard in Romanian, Milliarde in German) is not a million million, it's also one thousand million.
    There's a nice map (and lots of other info) on Wikipedia here.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    The question makes perfect sense.
    In USA (and Canada too maybe) a billion is one thousand of millions (1.000.000.000) while for the rest of the world a billion is a million of millions, as mustermisstler has already pointed out.
    How much? How many? Since the question is not refering to anything in particular, I would use "much" because it is the one for uncountable stuff (abstract object in this case).
    I see that you are new here. Welcome. Before you add to a thread, it's best to read all the replies. Post #4 is relevant. For those countries where English is the standard language a billion is one thousand million. I don't know about the rest of the world, but if a word in another language means a million million then its translation into modern English is one thousand billion, not one billion. But "how much" is fine. :)
     
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    Neo-Dio

    New Member
    Spanish - Spain
    I am afraid you are wrong. The rest of the world follows the IS (International System), in which a billion is a million of millions.
    Wikipedia says it were the French who turned to the "short scale" in first place, but everyone but the USA has already reverted to the proper "long scale".
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billion
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Oh dear. This stupid bit of "standardisation" is completely dumb...

    The only sensible thing to do was to drop the usage of billion entirely and switch to the use of (10^9 or 1,000,000,000 or Giga).

    GF..

    It has the symbol of G......
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    From your article:
    Historically, the United Kingdom used the long scale billion but since 1974 official UK statistics have used the short scale. Since the 1950s the short scale has been increasingly used in technical writing and journalism, although the long scale definition still enjoys common usage.
    By the way, the abbreviation for the International System of Units is SI, not IS.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I am afraid you are wrong.
    Who is wrong? I'm not. I said
    For those countries where English is the standard language a billion is one thousand million. I don't know about the rest of the world, but if a word in another language means a million million then its translation into modern English is one thousand billion, not one billion.
    The UK certainly has not reverted to the "long scale".
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I don't know about the rest of the world, but if a word in another language means a million million then its translation into modern English is one thousand billion, not one billion. But "how much" is fine. :)
    In the US, a million million is a trillion, not a thousand billion.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    In the US, a million million is a trillion, not a thousand billion.
    Yes, you are right. The translation is one trillion which equates to one thousand million billion. (Edit. Sorry, a slip of the brain and finger)

    Yes, it did. And turned back again to the short scale in 1974, because of the US influence, according to wikipedia.
    It most certainly did not. You misread the article
    but Britain retained the original long scale use.
    The British aren't known for their historical willingness to adopt ideas from France.
     
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    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    I see the term 'the rest of the world' getting bandied about a lot in this thread.

    Different languages have very different number systems. In India 1,000,000,000 is not called a billion, it is called 100 crore (and 1,000,000,000,000 is called 1 lakh crore (a lakh being 10,000 and a crore 10,000,000). This is relevant to this thread because these terms are used in Indian English as well as in Indian languages (except in Pakistani English where they often use the British terms I believe).

    Andygc said:
    Yes, you are right. The translation is one trillion which equates to one thousand million.
    No, one trillion is one million million. One thousand million is one billion.

    1,000,000 = one million
    1,000,000,000 = one billion (formerly one thousand million in BE)
    1,000,000,000,000 = one trillion (i.e. one million million)

    One thousand billion and one million million are the same thing, a trillion.
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hello everyone,

    I came across the question below while surfing on the Internet. And It really has me confused.

    How many is a billion?

    And my question is : Why not , how much is a billion?

    Thanks
    I've been thinking about this.

    Of the two, I think I'd use "how many" rather than "how much". At least, I'm pretty sure that's what I would do with other 'number-words':
    How many is a dozen? rather than How much is a dozen?
    How many is a score?
    rather than How much is a score?
    That said:
    - I think both are possible;
    - I also think it's really only the sort of phraseology you'd use in addressing questions to children:).
     
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