Anew riddle is making the rounds on social media that asks if Mr. Smith has four daughters, just how many children he has. Here’s a look at the answer to the riddle and just how many children Mr. Smith has. It’s a lot trickier than you might think at first.
The riddle typically reads like this:
Mr. Smith has 4 daughters. Each of his daughters has a brother. How many children does Mr. Smith have?
In some versions, “Mr. Harry” is used instead of “Mr. Smith,” but the answer is the same.
Are you ready for the answer? Read on below.
Here’s the Answer to the Riddle
Here’s the traditionally accepted answer to the riddle, but note that there are arguments that can be made against it:
Mr. Smith has 5 children because his daughters all have the same brother.
This is the answer because we assume that the meaning of “each of his daughters has a brother” is that each of the daughters shares the same brother.
But it’s worth noting that a lot of people debate this answer. Some say that he could have as many as eight children if each daughter had a brother, but not necessarily the same brother. Some argue that the wording of the riddle doesn’t require that they share the brother, and that Mr. Smith could have children with different women. There’s really nothing in the riddle itself that clues us in about who the mother is or whether all the children share the same mom.
So some might say the correct answer would be that he has anywhere from five to eight children given the parameters of the riddle.
- He could have four daughters and a son with the same mom, equaling 5 children.
- Or maybe three of the daughters share the same brother but then he has a daughter and son with a different mom. That would be three daughters and their brother (4) and then one daughter and her brother (2) for 6 total children.
- Or he could have two daughters who share the same brother (3 children) and then a daughter-and-son pair with two different moms (4 children) for 7 total.
- Or each of his four daughters could be with a different mom, and he could have a son with each of those moms too, for 8 children.
As you can see, there really are a lot of possible debated answers besides 5.
Others might still argue for yet another interpretation. The riddle never says that each daughter’s brother is Mr. Smith’s child. So you might even be able to argue that he has anywhere from 4 to 8 children, depending on whether the daughters’ brother is Mr. Smith’s child too.
If you want to make things a little more confusing, consider this slightly altered version of the riddle:
Mr. Smith had 4 daughters. Each of his daughters had a brother. How many children does Mr. Smith have?
Some argue that because this riddle says he had daughters (in the past tense) and they had brothers, then we should say that Mr. Smith does not have any children currently. But this is confusing because even if his children aren’t alive anymore, they’re still children that he has. Or if Mr. Smith died and that’s why it’s in the past tense, then they’re still all his children. It really just expands the possible answers from 0 up to 8. It’s better to just word the riddle in the present tense and avoid the confusion of having two tenses in one riddle. You can see people debating the past tense version of the riddle in a Quora discussion here and coming to a similar conclusion.
This riddle sometimes is worded slightly differently, such as saying that “Harry has 4 daughters” or “A person has 4 daughters.” The end conclusion is still the same.
This is just one of many riddles that are circulating on sites like Facebook and Instagram during the coronavirus pandemic. If you’ve seen the “How Many Ducks Do You See?” riddle and were stumped, check out Heavy’s explanation here. If you ran into the “I Met a Man on London Bridge” riddle and have no idea what the man’s name is, you can find the answer in Heavy’s story here. The answer to the “You Enter a Bedroom” riddle is here, and the answer to the “Can You Open the Lock Using These Clues?” riddle is here.
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