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Mr. Smith had four daughters, each daughter had one brother, how many children does Mr. Smith have?

Mr. Smith had four daughters

Mr. Smith had four daughters, each daughter had one brother, how many children does Mr. Smith have?

This question is missing lots of variables and information. When you have missing data, you have to make assumptions to account for such. And, your conclusion should be based only on the provided data and your assumptions. You also need to pay attention to the verbs HAD, HAVE, and DOES.

Mr. Smith could be alive, and daughters and son dead or vice versa. If he’s deceased, then clock and time already stopped on him, the reason for the “he HAD.” If he’s alive, then the “he HAD” will mean he currently doesn’t have four daughters: this ranging from three daughters to none. For the daughters, “they HAD” implies they either lost their brother or vice versa.

However, Mr. Smith is alive because of the verb “DOES.” If the verb “DID” was used instead, then chances are he’s dead. If he’s alive and considering the HAD verbs, and a need to know the current state of possession with the “HAVE” verb, then a living Mr. Smith possibly lost some to all daughters and son in no particular order.

So, assuming the daughters are from the same biological mother and are all mutually inclusive. And, Mr. Smith is their living biological father, and the brother they had was from both parents; the conclusion based on available data and assumptions is, he currently has no children.

This conclusion will change if there is additional information. Like, did the daughters and the brother come from different mothers? Does Mr. Smith currently have living children or a child? That question point to the fact that “HAD FOUR DAUGHTERS” could also mean some of the daughters passed, so he probably currently has less than four or anywhere between none up to three daughters.

Mr. Smith had four daughters, each daughter had one brother, how many children does Mr. Smith have

Do we have a mutually exclusive event here?

Etcetera. There are so many scenarios here presenting different conclusions. So, to clear unnecessary uncertainty, questions need to be asked to give a more accurate answer; however, given the current data, missing info, and necessary assumptions, he has none.

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However, due to the nature of riddles, there is always more than one accepted answer.

Another twist to the riddle surrounds the initial sentence, which reads “each of his daughters has a brother”. Technically, there is no confirmation that Mr Smith’s brothers are also his children.

The riddle does not explicitly say that they are his sons. Therefore all of the daughter’s brothers could be from a prior marriage, affair, etc. Although, again, the riddle doesn’t specify that the brothers are ‘step brothers’.

Mr. Smith had four daughters, each daughter had one brother, how many children does Mr. Smith have?

From zero to four.

  1. “Mr. Smith had four daughters” means one or more of his daughters could be dead, but not necessarily. If I say “I had four daughters before I turned 30,” I probably mean my girls were born before my 30th birthday, not that they were alive but died before that date. Mr. Smith has between zero & four living daughters.
  2. “Each daughter had one brother” means at least one person is dead. Either Mr. Smith’s daughters had four different brothers, one for each of them, or they each shared the same brother. The use of past tense means that if Mr. Smith has any living sons, then all of his daughters must be dead. Likewise, if any of Mr. Smith’s daughters are alive, and sons must be dead. Mr. Smith has between zero & four living sons.
  3. What Mr. Smith doesn’t have is a mix of living sons & daughters. He could even be childless; all of his kids could be dead. And of course, it’s possible the brothers aren’t/werenot Mr. Smith’s sons at all, but rather brothas from another fatha.
Mr. Smith had four daughters
Mr. Smith had four daughters

The trick is in the grammar it self. This question seems to be highly open with many variables are missing and the information it holds is neither specific nor complete. So there could be different assumptions one can make in answering this question which can lead to different answers.

I rather stick to the grammatical structure of the question to give a specific answer. Mr. Smith had 4 daughters and each daughter had 1 brother, whether each daughter had a separate brother from different mothers or whether all daughters share the same brother from the same biological mother, all these figures are represented by a verb used to refer to things or actions happened in the past and no longer continue to exist or happen and that past verb is “HAD”. Therefore Mr. Smith has zero (0) number of children.


The answer to this puzzle is fair simple but it is important to know that this puzzle plays around with words. In this iteration of the puzzle the word ‘had’ takes over much importance. It is an interesting puzzle which plays around with people’s mind by tricking people’s perception. 

Also read: Balloon math puzzle: Here’s the correct way to solve the problem

If emphasized on the word ‘had’, then it means that Mr. Smith currently does not have any kids. One needs to carefully look at the tense of the sentence. The sentence is formed in past-tense which confirms that Mr. Smith does not have any kids now. On the other hand, there is another version of the puzzle which changes the answer completely. Check it out below –

  • The most widely accepted answer to the riddle is Five. Mr and Mrs Smith have five children.

This can be explained in simple sections:

1. We know that Mr and Mrs Smith have 4 daughters (4)

2. We know that each of the daughters have a brother (1)

3. Total children = 5

The confusion around the riddle is that it is not a test of maths but not a test of literacy. Many people assume that all four of the daughters have different brothers, and therefore multiply 4×2 to get the answer or eight children.

However, this is not specified in the riddle. If read to grammatical perfection, the riddle correctly reads that all of the sisters have a brother, meaning all four sisters share the same one brother.


Assuming they are all living, he has 5 children – four daughters and a son. However, since some might no longer be living, he could have anywhere between zero to five living children.

There is something else we need to consider. What if the brother is from another father? His four daughters could have had a brother without Mr. Smith having a son. His daughter’s mom could have remarried (or been previously married) and gave birth to a son via that father. If you consider the possibility of stepdads, Mr. Smith could have as few as four children even if all four daughters and their brother are living.

The best answer is that we don’t have enough information.

Mr. Smith had four daughters
Mr. Smith had four daughters

He had 4 daughters. Living or dead doesn’t matter. And while the sisters had a brother or do not say anything about the brother being his son. The answer is right there in the riddle. Some are making it way more complicated than it actually is. Think of that old riddle about the man going to St Ives who met a man with seven wives. It’s like that one. The answer is simple and in the first line of the riddle!

Based on the English there are two or more answers. The first is of course 5 because with the same mother all the daughters would all have the same elder brother.

But suppose the mothers of the kids were different. The total count would be different but not enough information is given to answer the question as you would need to know how many mothers.

Using the word “had” as past tense he has no children because they are all dead. If there is just one mother and the word had is used as in the past they were born you could use 5 as the answer.

I feel that the correct answer is 0.

Mr. Smith had four daughters, each daughter had one brother, how many children does Mr. Smith have