Riddles are a great way to pass the time when traveling. Especially if you are up in the air in a plane and don’t have internet access for a while.
It’s far too easy these days for people to google the answer to riddles instead of trying to figure them out! It kinda defeats the purpose of a riddle if you just look up the answer.
Today we’re looking at the “Mr Smith Had 4 Daughters” riddle. Here it is stated in it’s most common format.
Mr Smith had Four daughters, each daughter had a brother. How many children does Mr Smith have?
The puzzle also takes a few different forms:
- Mr.Smith has 4 daughters. Each of his daughters has a brother. How many children does Mr Smith have?
- Mr. Smith had 4 daughters. Each daughter had 4 brothers. How many kids does Mr. Smith have?
- Mr Smith has four daughters. Each daughter had 4 brothers. How many children does Mr Smith have?
- Mr and Mrs Smith have 4 daughters…
The answer to the “Mr Smith had 4 daughters” riddle is…
Wait… do you really want to give up?
Click To Reveal The Answer
The most commonly accepted answer is that Mr Smith has five children. Each of the daughters has the same brother!
The Answer Explained
The riddle tries to make us think there are 8 kids. 4 daughters and 4 brothers.
Here’s Frank on Twitter almost getting it wrong.
Diana explained how she saw it.
When people use google to try to get an answer to this riddle a proportion type things like this:
- “mr smith had 4 daughers 4 brothers”
- “mr smith had 4 daughters, each daughter had 4 brothers”
The original riddle never mentions “4 brothers”. The trick of the riddle hangs upon this mistaken assumption that there are 4 different brothers, one for each sister. There is only one brother!
The Alternative Dark Explanation “Had” Or “Has”
I believe the answer given above is the intended answer to the riddle. It’s not as complicated as some people make out.
The trick is in making you think there are four brothers and that there will be 8 children in total.
However there is much debate about what the real answer to this riddle is. It revolves around the meaning of the word “had”.
The alternative answer is that since Mr Smith “had” 4 daughters it was something that was in the past and that it means Mr Smith no longer has 4 daughters or a son in the present.
They then conclude that it means the real answer to the riddle is that Mr Smith has no children presently.
Let’s look at the definition of the word “had”.
If you heard that a Mrs Smith “had a baby” you wouldn’t think that a baby was born and subsequently died. Hearing that “she had a baby” is good news!
If the riddle was “Mrs Smith had 4 daughters” then you’d think it meant she “had 4 babies”. You’d be using “had” in the sense of undergoing an experience rather than possession.
I don’t believe the use of had in the riddle means that the children are all dead. The world isn’t that dark for me.
That Mr & Mrs Smith “had” a daughter doesn’t mean that the daughter is no longer around.
The Bottom Line
In truth, there isn’t enough information given in the Mr Smith daughter riddle to determine how many kids Mr Smith has.
The trick of the basic riddle is that we count the brother multiple times and arrive at 8 children instead of 5.
I don’t believe the “had” vs “has” argument is valid.
My own mother “had” a child in 1978, it doesn’t mean that I’m dead today. I’m still very much alive and kicking!
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