Je me demande combien d'entre eux vont passer les examens aujourd'hui ?

Je me demande combien ils vont être à passer les examens aujourd'hui ?

When I want to express the idea of "how many of them", the first phrase springs to mind. And I’ve just come across the second one for the first time. Are they nuanced in meaning, or is there any difference to take note of?

1 Answer 1


These sentences are not strictly equivalent and also possibly a mistranslation because passer un examen aujourd'hui doesn't mean "pass an exam today" but "attend/take an exam today", the former would be réussir un examen.

Anyway, the first one correctly translates "how many of them". There is a known set of people the sentence is referring to.

The second sentence doesn't focus on a particular set of people, the question is just about knowing the total number of people that will take it.

Of course, if the particular group of people is actually the full set, both sentences are equivalent.

  • @LUNA I upvoted Jiliagre's answer because I agree with the difference they point at when focusing on a specific group of people or not, and both are correct to me. But I would not use either of them, *Je me demande combien de personnes vont se présenter aux examens.. ; Je me demande s'ils seront nombreux à se présenter... ; Je me demande s'il y en aura beaucoup qui.... Note I'd use se présenter in your sentence because it's aujourd'hui and what matters to you is the fact they're here or not. Passer is more generic.
    – None
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 8:54
  • Now that you mention it, the second sentence indeed doesn't deal with the subset. Merci, jlliagre. Merci, Laure. Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 16:03

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