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Brothers and sisters have I none, but this mans father is my fathers son

This discussion thread has 27 messages.

Not that im back to the forum or anything ;-) im just trying to get a small debate on this brilliant riddle going.

A man is walking down a hall, and turns to a portrait of a man and says "brothers and sisters have I none, but this man's father is my father's son".

The most popular reply i got seems to be he is looking at a picture of himself. This could not possibly be right! ill exaplain why i say that.

Possibility 1, It's Himself!

If it is himself, then it makes sense that he told us brothers and sisters have I none! But, he goes to say this man's father is my fathers son. Now if it is himself in the portrait, then the man in the portraits father is his own father, BUT he then says "is my fathers son, now how could his father be his fathers son?

So that cant be right.

Possibility 2, It's his son.

This has been called the right answer in 90% of cases but it has a flaw. Firstly though, lets see whats right about it. If its his son in the portrait, then the man in the portraits father is in fact himself (the man who is looking at the portrait). So then he'd basically be saying I am my fathers son, which makes perfect sense in a way.

But the flaw i see in it, is it fails to explain why he said brothers and sisters have i none. If it was his brother in the picture, it couldnt be right either, because his brothers father is his father, but his father is not his fathers son. How could man be his own father? or his own son?, Therefore this answer completely chops a line out of the riddle.

Possibility 3. Statement, or Question...?

Remember that this man "SAID" these words, he did not write them, therefore we cannot assume that he made a statement when he said "brothers and sisters have i none". What is he asked himself, brothers and sisters have i none????? The anybpody could make the argument that he HAD brothers and sisters before but they are dead! This would make sense of the first line of the riddle, and leaves way wfor way more possibilities.

Possibility 4. Its his nephew.

If you put a nephew in the picture and assume "brothers and sisters have i none" is a question and not a statement, then it works. Lets say for arguments sake he had 2 brothers, and 2 sisters. Both the brothers and sisters died and there is only himself and nephew left. So he sayd "brothers and sisters have I none? but this mans father is my fathers son". The first and second line, make sense! It takes time to accept this as a possibility but it is a possibility, and in my opinion, has much more sense than it being a picture of his son because it gives reason as to why he would say brothers and sisters have i none, he could be saying in distraught, trying to understand in his own mind.

Possibility 5. He's married

This is a strange but possible possibility. In many religions, if you get married to a woman, then her father becomes your father (of course they say father in law these days). So if she had a brother who had a son, it could also work if you put that son in the picture. Of course most of you wont accept this possibility because marriage iosnt what it used to be.

Id like to hear more of these possibilities. I'd love it actually. I know there is one possibility somewhere where people make the argument that the man in the picture is his father, but I cant understand it, so if any of you know that, please explain it to me.

Feel free to debate and lets see if we can find a real answer for this! :-)
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 04 Dec 2004 @ 11:32
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Ok then. Let's try this one!
Fathers son is him. As in I am the son of this man, the son of your father is you. The fathers son is him, as he uses the possesive MY FATHERS.
I have no brothers or sisters is just to throw you off the scent. HE has no brothers. That is a dead giveaway. So you cannot say IF it was his brother in the picture, he was not, cannot & will not be in the picture.
He clearly states he has NO brothers or sisters. You CANNOT bring ifs into the equation. It is a non starter.
So therefore he is saying the father of the man in the portrait is him.
If he is the father of the man in the picture, then the man in the picture is his son.
Imagine it is you in the picture, the man looking at you is the father of the man in the picture. The man looking at you is your father. If you are looking at your father, he is looking at his son

Gif by Phantom69

The whole point is the man walks out and says this out loud while looking at a picture, this is not a line to throw you off. Notice the fact that he said brothers and sister have i none, NOT brother and sisters i have none OR i have no brothers and sisters. Since he said it and didnt write it down, the fact that there is no question mark on paper doesnt mean he did not say it as a question, he said it out loud.

Remember, he did not say he had a son either, or a woman gave birth to his son. So you are still saying "what if its his son?" riddles are all about hat if's, this is one of the most debated riddles ever, oits true that in some poubs here, you are not allowed to say it because it keeps starting fights lol

What im saying is the man said the first line for a reason, he didnt say it and think "oph ill throw off the millions of people who will hear this riddle". You may argue that there is no man and its just a riddle, but its a fictional man, and a fictional portrait, and it would be a very dumb riddle if the first line was just a throw off, because it would be so easy! too damn easy!
Just to clarify, "brothers or sisters have I none" is a statement, not a question, so he definitely has no brothers or sisters. It is just an old fashioned English way of making a point in the most convoluted way possible. This is pretty standard way for the English language in the bad old days.
A good example of this would be;
"not have I the stamina required to complete the task in an indeed most vigorous fashion"
In other words he is knackered, but is too polite to use such coarse & vulgar language. That would be a word for the working classes to use.

Gif by Phantom69

yes i iunderastand what ur saying, but the reason people say that "brothers and sisters have i none" is not a question is because it has no question mark, do u understand? its a riddle to be told, not read, u say it not give someone a page with it written on it. I know what you mean about the old english, but u have to question why he would be lookjing at a picture of his son and say brothers and sister have i none, whether its a question or statement. If he had a brother or sister, if they were in the portrait, then the second line of what he said, wouldnt not be right.

Im not saying im right, i think honestly that there is no real answer to it, it depends what way it is said to you or whatever way ur told it, some people have changed it to "i have none" but this was just to make it easier and to get the whole question possibility out of the way, i honestly thoink thats a wrong thing to do, as it ruins the original riddle.

I have 2 answers, his son or his nephew (look at my earlier post to explain why i think it could be a nephew). One way or another, u cant say its not an excellent riddle :-)
I think it is all down to how one interpretes the sentence. You could argue over the meaning of a single sentence like "I think therefore I am" 'til the cows come home.
It all boils down to how you yourself understand sentence structure & meanings.
This is where a good understanding of grammar also comes in. How you interprete/comprehend sentences can be a very personal thing. In what tone was the sentence made.? Was he happy or sad?. This too can make a huge difference in how it is to be understood. Did he use a sarcastic tone? Did he mean he had some brothers & sisters but had disowned them for some reason? What where the his facial expressions when he said it?
I am in no way an expert, but I do enjoy the idiosynchrosies of our glorious English language.
As I understand it, you interprete "brothers & sisters have I none" more of a question than of a statement. I think more the opposite.
This is just an example of how different people interpret language. It has no question mark for a reason, it is not a question. The writer deliberately avoided using a question mark. The writer is therefore making either statement or observation. (I would say the two are the same, but we may be venturing into the realms of semantics)
The sentence is indeed a most interesting one, and is very thought provoking.
I tend to look at things in what I perceive to be a logical manner. So I would tend to ignore the emotional side of the arguement & stick to the actual words.
I really think that the writer is just playing with the English language. I suspect a lot of people have debated this over the years. I think it is marvellous. I personally like;
"If a tree falls down in a forest, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a noise?"
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 04 Dec 2004 @ 13:37

Gif by Phantom69

after drawing it on a paper, i independently came to the conlusion: son.
pulsar, im not saying it was a question, im just arguing that it could have been as what he said was actually "said" with his mouth, not written down, so im only writing it down the way I hear it, and I agree with you that its more than likely just a riddle to confuse people, maybe with no right answer!

I also said that I think it was either a son or a nephew. Only thing I said I saw wrong with the son was that it kinda made no reason for the first line to be there, and I love complex riddles, like for example, when you hear a riddle and then months laster realise that there's another possibility, and gradually see many more :-)

I know there is taking it to extremes though like tonight when i said it to a friend he gave me the answer "maybe he wasnt talking about the guy in the portrait, maybe he was saying it about someone else or himself or something" and i had to explain to him that the whole point of the riddle was he was talking about the portrait lol and you have to figure out who is in it from what he says. Its just that this riddle has been debated so many times, and is so famous that I dont believe it would be such an easy answer! i think that really there is no answer because if u keepo looking the possibilities are limitless. Like for example when another friend said that when people are married, they would call each others parents their mother and father too, especially years and years ago when this riddle probably came along. If this man who was looking at the portrait was married to a woman, who had a brother who had a son, then that son would work in the same argument if he called her father his because they were married.

I sure do like that one you mentioned. "If a tree falls down in a forest, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a noise?" It's a question nobody can answer. Sure there will be the scientists who say definately because sound travels in waves yada yada yada, but u still cant prove it. If you werent around to hear the noise, and u had no way of hearing it through other means, did it even make a sound?

Ill ask you a good one here..... I'll say it as if it were in Ireland (cause i live there lol)

there were two sons years and years ago who lived in the country side with their father, who owned a lot of land and very valuable things. The father passed away and the sons were given his will.

The will stated "My two sons will take their favourite horses, and race them to Dublin, and whichever crossed the line last, its owner will get everything".

So the two men were shocked at this. Neither knew what to do, because if you do have a race, none of them would cross the border into dublin, as the other would then get everything. So they trotted along and came to a pub and decided to have a drink and talk aboiut it, see if they could figure out something out.

When they went in they saw an old man sitting at the bar. They went up to him and bought him a drink and asked him to use his wisdom to help them solve this problem. After about half of each of their pints were finished, the old man turned and said something to them. The two men slammed the drinks down on the table, ran out, jumped up on the horses and raced off to dublin as fast as they could.

What did the old man say?
they switched horses? :)
I think in your first riddle the picture is of Jesus. I'm truly not very religious but it makes a bit of sense to me. I'll explain how I came to this conclusion.

1)(catholic confession) "Forgive me Father for I have sinned" We refer to God as our Father.
2)Jesus Christ is the son of God
3)So even though he has no brothers or sisters, his Father(God) is the Father of Jesus.

I think it plays on the word Father to make it complicated.

Why oh why is religion brought into it?!

Gif by Phantom69

PS, Dela, I am not saying that you are saying it was a question. The way I interpreted it was as if you had inferred that it was a question. You will note that I am very vague sometimes, this is as I try not to upset anyone, especially if I am not very knowledgeable about a subject!
I find diplomacy is the better way for me. This is as I can sometimes come across as patronising & condescending. The thing is, is that, I love the English language. Not only is it my mother tongue, but it has had so many influences because of the variety of people we have had here across hundreds & hundreds of years. Sometimes I get a bit too serious!
I love speaking French. I have had a couple of excursions to the South of France on various large motor cycles. If you do not speak the lingo, it can make the experience not as nice. Not only that, the locals love it if you try.
I found my trip to Germany more challenging, especially in Eastern germany, as my German is not too good!! (curiously though, when my mate & I went to Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of Berlin, we found a tour guide talking English to a group of people. But the Fraulein at the entrance spoke none.)
Italians speak far too quickly for me to even get a grasp of what they are saying. I can just say hello, goodbye, please & thank you!! I found it best to get the ski instructors to speak French. We could then have a conversation!
I'm not too sure what the old man in the pub said to the brothers with the horses, I will think about that one!
Kind Regards.
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 11 Feb 2005 @ 8:34

Gif by Phantom69

I didn't mean to bring religion into it. Hell I haven't stepped into a church except for a wedding or two in over 12 yrs. It was just a logical answer to me. The other answers to me didn't seem to make sense. And there are a few religious riddles out there. I had to endure my lady's mother trying to get us to answer some. My logic fits(in my opinion) and I can't see any other as Dela has argued good points to the flaws of the other possiblities.

zippyd, thats an excellent answer and it never ever occured to me! :-) it makes pretty good sense to me aswell, especially if the riddle came from a time not so long ago when religion was everything.

mooglez, yes the old man told them to take each others horse, that way whoever won, his horse would lose and he'd get everything, well spotted my friend :-)

pulsar, mooglez answer was correct, the old man instucted to take the others horse, if you read the will, it says the owner will get everything, it refers to the horses victory, not the mans victory, so its a very clever little riddle :-)
You guys got far too much time on your hands

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it's really easy...:
1. Brothers and sisters i have none....means...his mom was on birth control..and he was the 1st and last
2. But that man's father.....his mom screwed around...he had no idea who his dad was
3.Was my father's son......a little incest is at play here......LOL

actually the answer is his uncle...SAm!!!!
dcb35 Suspended due non-functional email address
Hey guys. I was told this riddle the other night, and I was told the answer was Himself. I argued for over an hour to convince all the mindless believers that the answer is really his son, but to no avail.

Now, let me solve all of your worries about the opening statement.

'Brothers and sisters have I none', implies that the person in the picture is his son, NOT his NEPHEW, because if he had a brother, 'my Father's son' could be his brother.

As for Jesus, the person in the portrait would have to be the son of Jesus, as 'This man's FATHER is my father's son'.

Sorry if i've ruined any potential bar brawls.

Dave The Young But Comparitively Wise
I thought, when I was ten that this is the right answer and I still think it is. . .The man in the picture is the man who asks the question. 'That man's father' is not the man in the picture. The speaker is referring to someone who's not there. He could have pointed to the picture and said 'His father' instead of 'That man's father'. In the phrase, 'my father's son' he must be referring to himself because he (the speaker) has no brothers or sisters and he uses the possessive 'my'. He (the speaker) is his father's only child. When you take away the possessives, you've got the man saying, 'Brothers and sisters have I none, that man is me.'
Prisoner Suspended due non-functional email address
To add confusion, I think for sure he is looking at himself in the picture.

And Dela, to mix it up to get enough fathers all you need is the son to have a father, then the son marries a woman and her daughter is married to the the original father. Thus the chain will work in any way and I am sure he is looking at himself in the picture and that is also implyed by the I have no brothers (so no off genetic variantion) and no sister (no ugly guy looking girls to confuse you).

So its himself.

I am not a number
I am a Free Man

Hello folks I have just had a quick search for this riddle as it has bugged me for ages what the actual words and the proper answer were. For a long time I had subscribed to the “son” camp but I was very interested in the Jesus angle. This however doesn’t bear scrutiny by non Roman Catholics. Apologies in advance to pulsar but this is too good a point to ignore. Point 3 made by zippyd that Jesus had no brothers or sisters is not what is taught in the Church of Scotland. According to the Bible, Matthew 13:35, Mark 6:3 and Galatians 1:18 & 19 all make reference to James as the elder brother of Jesus but bearing in mind the virgin birth this can’t be so as they would be at best stepbrothers. However Matthew 13:55 also mentions three further brothers and Matthew 13:56 mentions sisters. Assuming that Mary was not a perpetual virgin and that these were the children of Mary and Joseph this would disprove point 3, admittedly only for non Roman Catholics.
If we assume a Roman Catholic posed the riddle then this is still an avenue that should be explored. God is, in the word’s of the Lord’s prayer, Our Father. So this man’s father (Jesus as this man) is my father’s son (God is my Father). Can’t argue with it, good point.
On the other hand, if we assume that riddle was posed by a non Roman Catholic then there is but one solution.
1. “Brothers and sisters have I none” a bit of poetic license to state “I, the riddler (not Batman’s arch enemy incidentally), am an only child”. It is stated in the present tense and could be interpreted as I once had brothers and sisters but no longer do either due to disowning or death. No matter, if you are not an only child you still have brothers and sisters regardless of whether they are alive or dead. Question “Do you have any brothers?” answer “Yes, but they are dead now” or “No, they are dead” I side with the former. To expand upon Dela’s point of extended family after marriage his wife’s brother becomes his brother if her father becomes his father, don’t you agree? For what it’s worth, I also think that bklyn1028’s slur on the memory of that poor woman who died giving birth to her only child is scurrilous.
2. “this man’s father” clearly the riddler is looking at the portrait of a male by stating “this man” and referring to that person’s father.
3. “is my father’s son” again pretty obviously I am an only child so my father’s son cannot be my brother as I don’t have one ergo it must be me, the riddler. Add that to points 1 and 2 and there is but one conclusion.
4. The conclusion is the riddler must be looking at a portrait of his own son. I, the riddler, am looking at the picture of a man whose grandfather is my father and since I am an only child it must be my son. How, though, does he know for sure that the person he is looking at is his son? To quote Shakespeare “It is a wise father that knows his own child”. The riddle is either posed by a wise father or it is still inconclusive.

One should always remember the old adage that one must never assume, but since the riddler isn’t here to answer the points how else can this be examined?

Now then answer this. There are two ducks in front of a duck, two ducks behind a duck and a duck in the centre. What is the minimum number of ducks required in making this statement true? ;o)

I am not really stupid, it just appears that way.
Prisoner Suspended due non-functional email address
For your duck solution I vote 3, because you say a duck, not the duck.

I am not a number
I am a Free Man

It was rather easy really. I have another riddle that is slightly more testing. A man dies and goes to a sort of heaven. In this place everyone is as naked as the day they were born and appear in human form exactly as they did in their prime. A woman approaches and says, “hello, you don’t recognise me do you?” The man shakes his head and the woman says, “I am your grandmother. You have many relatives and friends in this place most of whom you won’t know at first. Go among them and get re-acquainted”. The man does as he is told but does not recognise anyone at all until he meets a man and a woman. He walks directly to them and says, “hello Adam, hello Eve, how was life in the Garden of Eden?” How did he recognise them?

I am not really stupid, it just appears that way.
Prisoner Suspended due non-functional email address
What you only stare at naked pictures of adam and eve? You never walked in on your mom or dad in the washroom.

I am not a number
I am a Free Man

Rosco404 Suspended due non-functional email address
My head hurts :/

These are good games:
The Crimson Room and The Viridian Room, try and get out the rooms...

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 24 Feb 2005 @ 6:20

smoke me a kipper i'll be back for breakfast - Ace
I think the man is slightly insane.

Everyone is entitled to their own true opinion. Either respect that or don't.

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