The Riddle That Broke My Brain - Can You Solve it?

in STEMGeeks3 months ago (edited)

Lizzy had 500NGN, John has 50, Fifi will have 700NGN. Who has more money between the three.png
Edited on Canva with Image from Pixabay

It was a seemingly simple riddle posted by @starstrings01 on a personal communication channel, in which he lost to another user, and then I lost to him. Here is what it says, very simple:

Lizzy had 500NGN, John has 50, Fifi will have 700NGN. Who has more money between the three?

It looks very simple and straightforward till you give an answer, which I know most people will choose John. Then, to their dismay, they will be told that the correct answer is none. At first, you simply accept defeat, but after a while, you start wondering and trying to understand how you became wrong and if, actually, you are wrong. To answer the question of correctness, let's look at the individual elements closely.

English Rules of "Has, Had, and Will Have"

English language can be hard, and our colonial masters did not bother to perfect our use of it. They left us just when we developed an adulterated version of the language (pidgin English), which we enjoy today (at least we are communicating), but it makes us oblivious to some basic English principles. Talking about "has, had, and will have", here are some guiding principles:

  • "Have" is a verb that denotes that someone currently possesses something or an activity. So, with "will have" in a sentence, it means you may possess this thing/activity in the future, very simple.
  • "Has" is also a verb, denoting that at some point in one's life, a thing or activity was in a person's possession.

However, the "has - have" relationship is not as simple as it seems. It can easily and correctly displace "have" in some sentences, meaning that sometimes it could be used in place of "have". Thus, while it can primarily be used to denote the completion of an action, it can also get the same job done.

So, rather than wallow in the confusion of "has and have" use in English, the best thing is to accept the next rational principle for use, on which most English experts commonly agree:

"Has" is used when referring to the third person in a sentence, which is the person that is not the speaker, nor the listener, but someone else.
- While "have" can be used to refer to the first, second and third person.

More complications, but let's stop here.

The long and short of everything is simple; "have and has" indicate possession, but don't necessarily tell the whole state of possession. The contest of the sentence should provide the whole picture.

What about "had"? "Had" is what "has" should have been. They are breaking my brain. lol! But, "had" properly and inarguably shows the completion of an action or previous possession/ownership.

So, here is the simple explanation:

  • "Have" shows current ongoing possession or activity.
  • "Has" tells us about a past action or possession that is still going on.
  • "Had" tells us about past actions or possessions that ended in the past.

So, what is the answer?

I am not still 100% certain, but based on the analysis so far, it could be John that has more money, as he "has 50" compared to others that had and will have.

But no, there is a problem. Let's go to the mathematical aspect of this with a little bit of logic.

Somewhat Mathematically Proving that John Has Nothing

In mathematics and physical sciences, units of measurement play a very significant role. Once you put a figure in writing, you should tell us what it represents and in relation to what.

Units of measurement are basic ways to describe one value in relation to a physical object or element. Looking at the above riddle, could it be that it was clearly intended not to add a unit of measurement?

If so, the question now arises, 50 of what is John in possession of? Could it be 50 bread, 50 naira, 50 lamps? We need to know, but since that is uncertain, we can simply conclude that John has nothing.

Commonsensically Reviewing the Situation

Not so fast. Common sense helps us to look at things contextually. We focus on the whole picture instead of individual elements. While this could be a human flaw, it is also a display of human intelligence. That's why you can easily make out words from the first and last words, with other words in-between entirely skewed. Moreover, that is why teachers can easily assess kids.

So, looking at the context, John still has more. A bird in hand is worth more than a hundred in the bush. Whether adding the unit of measurement is there or not, we can't assume that it is not in reference to the others based on its context.


Any riddle that produces too many complications, such as this one, is not properly presented, and whoever developed it should go back to the drawing board as there is no correct answer and, thus, it should be reanalyzed and presented differently. But at least, it did a good job of helping us go back to the drawing board.

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Agreed with your verdict! We can't know, since we don't know how much money Lizzy and Fifi have. And John definitely has 50, contextually, commonsensically.

Exactly so Alexis. The creator needs to go back to the drawing board

If so, the question now arises, 50 of what is John in possession of?

You cannot say that John is in possession of anything other than NGN. Why? Because according to subject verb concord in English, John is said to have the same item as the first person in the statement, Lizzy, has. It is like saying, "Zestimony has 10 cars, and Olujay has just 3." Meaning, "Zestimony has just 10 cars, and Olujay has just 3 cars." So, automatically, John has 50 NGN, but "NGN" was clearly removed to present ambiguity.

In my opinion, the answer would be "unknown" or "undefined." This is because the question is in reference to the present and not the past nor the future. And from the statement we have, only John's present state was given, and not the other two. Since we do not know how much Lizzy and Fifi have currently, we cannot say who has "more." Hence, the answer would be "unknown."

Wow! Olujay. This is quite cracky here! I'm trying to wrap my broken brain around "none" and "unknown" could they be the same in your answer?

"None" is completely different from "unknown." The former does not suggest more than that they all have the same amount, or they do not have at all. Do you get?

Lol. I guess so.

Nice analysis nonetheless!

It is all the same subjective to different perspectives.

But thank you.

I am really amazed on how you drew an article from that simple statement. Man you are a badass writer. I am just looking how you are analysing all these. My mind did not even go there.

There is content everywhere, we just need to have the right mind to see it.

Exactly bro! Content is all about having an open mind. Still, credits to you for inspiring this one!

Yay! 🤗
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Sometimes you have money but you don't know you have it. In that case you don't consider them in your answer. So if the question wants certainty, it must be based on certain data.
The answer is therefore John 50, until proven otherwise, because it is the only certain fact.

I like your perspective and it's a quite intelligent take on this. Thanks for your nice opinion

 3 months ago Reveal Comment