How plenty of Fs execute you see?

There is a neat puzzle that has actually been law the rounds for a if now, i beg your pardon asks a very an easy question, namely how numerous Fs perform you watch in the complying with sentence?


“Finished files are the an outcome of years of scientific study linked with the endure of years.”

Give it a walk now and also take keep in mind of her count. Nothing over-think it and don’t spend a most time ~ above it.

You are watching: Finished files are the result of years

Did you obtain an answer? your answer is correct.

What?!? How deserve to this be? Well, the concern was “How plenty of Fs execute you see?” If you only saw two, then that is the exactly answer.

Admittedly, the was a little cheesy and pedantic, so stop modify the question and also make it a bit an ext robust through asking

How plenty of Fs are there in the following sentence?

You probably answered three, yes? This is the prize most world give. Or more accurately, this is the price most native speakers give.

The answer

There room actually six instances of the letter ‘f’ in that sentence – go ago and check.

If girlfriend still only see three, then check out the three times words ‘of’ appears, they have the letter ‘f’ as well. Perhaps this representation is an ext helpful.

Finished files space the result of years of scientific study an unified with the suffer of years.”

Infuriating, isn’t it?

The standard (incorrect) assessment

Most the the areas where you check out this riddle then draw the simple conclusion that the more you see, the more intelligent friend are. Wasn’t that a funny pattern-matching exercise.

This conclusion greatly misses the suggest of the exercise and, as we will see, has actually nothing to perform with intelligence, but more to carry out with just how we process language.

The linguistic assessment

There room two determinants that will affect your answer.

Firstly, the concern itself (how countless fs execute you see) to be a tiny bit mean, together it misdirects you right into thinking the a letter ‘f’ has a hard sound, choose ‘fail’, yet not a soft sound prefer ‘of’ (where is sounds much more like a ‘v’).

The very first two indigenous in the sentence (finished files) reinforce this incorrect subconscious thinking.

When we read the check sentence, since the native ‘of’ no sound like it has an ‘f’ in it, us don’t count it.

The other allude is that when we procedure language, we don’t provide the same importance to every word. We have tendency to skip the small words, such together ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘of’, ‘at’ etc. And also give most of our attention to the nouns and verbs. In other words, as soon as we review the check sentence, we don’t really read the 3 instances of the word ‘of’ – we just blur previous them.

These 2 points account because that why indigenous speakers often tend to see three, instead of six.

Native speakers?

I’ve especially mentioned indigenous speakers more than once and also there is a factor for this.

When you first learn a brand-new language, all of the words are unfamiliar and all have equal importance. As you get much more familiar v the language, you start to process the indigenous in a much more targeted way, for example, glossing end the small, familiar, words.

What this means is that if you provide this test to someone that doesn’t speak English, they will most likely get the correct answer of six because, because that them, it yes, really is a pattern-matching exercise.

The astonishing conclusion is the the much better you space at English, the an ext likely you room to acquire the wrong answer. This is not just how tests are supposed to work.


This has actually implications for proofreading. When I’m proofreading my own text, I recognize to having a blind spot. I recognize what the text is claimed to say and my brain does a great job that auto-correcting. I watch what is claimed to it is in there, instead of what yes, really is there. For various other text, when I’ve check out it a pair of times, the same impact occurs (to a lesser extent).

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This is one of the factors I favor Grammarly. That reads your text for the very first time, every time, and has no idea of her intent.