Learn English – “X times as many as” or “X times more than”

ambiguitycomparisonsdifferencesmeaning-in-contextnumbers

Suppose John has 5 sweets. Is there any difference between the following two sentences?

Jack has 3 times as many sweets as John.

Jack has 3 times more sweets than John.

I prefer the first construction and would know unambiguously that Jack has 15 sweets in this case. However in the second construction I would be inclined to think that Jack has 20 sweets, since it seems to suggest 15 sweets in addition to the original 5.

Best Answer

This is indeed a classic. The question has been asked many times around the web, and there appear to be two schools: one that agrees with you, and one that thinks both constructions are acceptable and interprets both as 15 sweets. I think those people are nuts, but, hey, they might be the majority. I say, why use a construction that is either illogical or ambiguous when you have a perfectly good alternative? But language isn't logical, especially not idiom, so I suppose I cannot call my argument objective. I think "3 times more" as 15 sweets total is acceptable to most people, though I'd never use it. You will even see it in newspapers. The exact same problem exists in Dutch, with the same sides to choose between.