In each item, which one contains an error?

  1. There were such many children in the playground that we couldn’t tell who was who.

I think ‘who was who’ because it’s weird.

  1. Everyone was surprised to hear of John cheating.

I suppose ‘John cheating’ because it should be ‘John’s cheating’.

  1. I can’t stand looking at that silly old hat of Henry.

I guess ‘that silly old hat’ because ‘that’ should be replaced by ‘the’.

Let’s discuss. What’s your opinion?

  1. So many. “Who was who” is fine. It just means they couldn’t tell who the children were. It’s a more conversational way to say it.

  2. The possessive is right.

  3. It should be “Henry’s.” It’s like “a friend of Adam’s.” It’s quite odd, though. “The” makes it seem that he has only one silly hat.

Surely some answers you have given are incorrect Mordant.

  1. There were so many is the correct form.
  2. Everyone was surprised to learn of John cheating.

Hello Grammarman,

For sentence 1, I agree with Mordant and Kitosdad. You can say ‘so many children’, but not ‘such many children’.
However, it would also be possible to say ‘such a lot of children’.


For sentence 2, I agree with you and Mordant that the author of your test/exercise probably expects ‘John cheating’ to be changed to ‘John’s cheating’.
Here is a link for reference: … possessive
(Scroll down to the section entitled Using Possessives With Gerunds.)

If you use John’s in your sentence, and then replace it with a pronoun, the result will be this:

  • Everyone was surprised to hear of his cheating.

I would add that you will also hear native speakers use structures such as ‘John cheating’ in casual conversation.
If you replaced John with a pronoun in your original sentence, the result would be this:
- Everyone was surprised to hear of him cheating.
However, this would generally not be considered to be formally grammatically correct.


For sentence 3, I agree with Mordant that it should be ‘that silly old hat of Henry’s’. This sort of double possessive is quite common in English. You can read more about that here:
(Scroll down to the section entitled Double Possessives.)
[size=75]“The creative impulses of man are always at war with the possessive impulses.” ~ Van Wyck Brooks [/size]

#2. “Everyone was surprised to hear of John cheating.” Grammatically but not colloquially, as EE pointed out, “hear of John’s cheating” is the correct form. If you have or like to use “John cheating”, you have to take “of” away: “Everyone was surprised to hear John cheating.” But that’s different in meaning.