The room is four chairs short

Hello everyone,

I've already asked a question here about ''short'' meaning ''having less than what is needed'', but it was in a different context, so I guess that I'm supposed to start a new thread on this one. In the sentence ''The room is four chairs short'' I know there are fewer chairs than there should be in the room. But I'm still not sure about the reasons why. So here are my conclusions.

a. Possibility 1: The room is four chairs short. [My conclusion: There are four fewer chairs in the room because they still haven't bought all the necessary chairs.]
b. Possibility 2: The room is four chairs short. [My conclusion: There are four fewer chairs in the room because someone took the four chairs to another room or stole them.]

My question: Am I correct in my conclusions 1 and 2 above?

Thank you in advance!
  • Aguas Claras

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Yes. It simply means that four more chairs are needed. There is no indication at all of why. It could be any of the reasons suggested or any other reason, e.g. four additional people are coming.


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Yes, the phrase only works if a number of chairs is specified (directly or indirectly)* for some reason. Any time the number you have is less than the specified number, you are short. It's just that simple. Why and how that is the case are irrelevant to the sentence. You either have the specified number or you don't.

    How to solve that problem, or whether you can solve that problem, depends on the overall context. But the sentence itself is independent of that. It simply states an observable fact.

    - we need 25 chairs (direct)
    - we need six chairs per table (indirect)
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    I agree with all the respondents' comments above, but "the room is four chairs short" while correct enough, does seem just a little odd to me, because a room can't really be short of anything - it's the people who need the chairs who are short of them. So I'd rather opt for "We're four chairs short", or something similar. Or am I being too pedantic?


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    If you are a person like me who in the past has had jobs where I had to set up conference rooms for meetings beforehand with a certain arrangement of tables and chairs then it might sound more natural. There are no people there at the time. The shortage is based on the plan and that many people might not even show up.