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A friend told me this riddle a few weeks ago, and I have remembered it now. I have not yet solved it. It goes like this:

A man eats what he does not have.

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

Who is he?

He told me that I can ask as many questions as I want, and so I did.

  • Does he eat something not materialistic like his pride or sadness or something like that? The answer was no.
  • Does it matter what particular thing he eats, e.g. does it change anything if it's an apple or a pear or whatever? Also no.

I'm still stumped on finding the solution, and the closest thing I had was

A diabetic - let's say he somehow "eats" insulin; (injects it into his body.) And had his body actually had insulin, he wouldn't have been a diabetic. But that's not the solution :)

Keep in mind that every solution is viable, and we'll together consider it for correctness. My friend told me "You'll know once you have it".

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to puzzling! This I believe is a version of quite a famous riddle $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Aug 18 '16 at 21:52
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Puzzling! These types of questions are common candidates for being closed as "too broad", since they invite many answers. I think this one's fine for now, but if it gets too many answers it may be closed. Also, please check the tag wikis before using them - this puzzle does not involve [logical-deduction] in any way. Thanks for joining, and I hope you enjoy the site! c: $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Aug 18 '16 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ "A man is no one" - Jaqen H'ghar 2012 (or whatever year it was in GoT) $\endgroup$ – MorganFR Aug 19 '16 at 12:27
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    $\begingroup$ Many valid answers, voting to close. $\endgroup$ – A E Aug 20 '16 at 10:57
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    $\begingroup$ After seeing the accepted answer, I am downvoting this question. I am very underwhelmed by the solution. $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Aug 22 '16 at 15:17

22 Answers 22

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This is similar to a famous riddle (that was just a site that displayed it simply):

He's a poor man

A man eats what he does not have

The man doesn't have anything, so he eats anything available, or else he'd starve

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is

The man has no money, no possessions, no food. He is probably literally starving. He has absolutely nothing. But if he did he wouldn't be poor

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  • $\begingroup$ My thoughts exactly. And the answer is no. A beggar, or a poor man, has got the thing that he eats, let's say, an apple. He literally possesses it at the moment he eats it. Does not matter how he got it, either found it, or got it from someone. This is not the solution my friend was looking for. Nice try though! $\endgroup$ – Vucko Aug 18 '16 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Vucko I've just though of an interesting edit, which makes it work - see above $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Aug 19 '16 at 9:13
  • $\begingroup$ Nah, still the same story, once he gets his hands on it, he has it. $\endgroup$ – Vucko Aug 19 '16 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ Mate, we're on the same boat. I feel you. I also said in this order: beggar, thief, diabetic. He told me that none of those are true and that diabetic is probably the closest but does not quite fit since you don't eat insulin. $\endgroup$ – Vucko Aug 19 '16 at 9:28
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    $\begingroup$ I still think this is the answer unless your friend has specifically said no. Take the classic question. A poor man has nothing (not literally true usually have clothes, maybe a shopping cart full of stuff), a rich man needs nothing (again not literally still needs food, shelter, etc). So in this case just having an apple for long enough to eat it doesnt IMO disqualify the statement that the man doesnt have anything. And if he has explicitly said no put it right in the question so others dont suggest it. @Vucko $\endgroup$ – gtwebb Aug 21 '16 at 1:39
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A man eats what he does not have.

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

Who is he?

Solution:

A thief.

Because

How can one eat a material that he does not have? He does not have it, but someone else does. Because the material has not become his by transfer, the owner did not give it to him, and therefore he would have had to have taken it against the rightful owner's will or without his knowledge.

If he owned what he stole, it would be his, and he would thereby not be a thief. The diabetic answer is my favorite though; it follows perfect logic.

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    $\begingroup$ This is what I thought of when reading the question $\endgroup$ – TheLethalCipher Aug 19 '16 at 11:50
  • $\begingroup$ As I said, first two things that popped in my mind are a thief and a poor man. Neither was correct. And after a looooot of thinking, I came up with a diabetic. Also incorrect :/ $\endgroup$ – Vucko Aug 20 '16 at 11:07
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The man could be

Speechless

A man eats what he does not have.

He eats his words because he does not have the words, he is speechless, stumped, dumbfounded.

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

If he has the words, he wouldn't be speechless.

OR,

Thinking along the same lines, the man could be

Wrong

A man eats what he does not have.

He eats his words [his wrong answer] because he is wrong.

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

If he had the correct answer he wouldn't be wrong

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  • $\begingroup$ He said that it is a physical material, and that the type did not matter. So really the focus is on the person, rather than the item. $\endgroup$ – user191160 Aug 19 '16 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ @user191160 You're completely right. I can't have this correct. $\endgroup$ – Brent Hackers Aug 19 '16 at 12:03
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Another possible solution it's that

he's a baby.

A man eats what he does not have.

The parents feed him. It's their food.

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

When you can eat by yourself you're no longer a baby.

PS

I know that in English there are many ways to call the baby depending on the age: toddler, infant etc, but cannot distiguish between them.

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  • $\begingroup$ Same thought! I would like to know what @Vucko thinks about this :) $\endgroup$ – Iazel Aug 19 '16 at 14:32
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A wild guess... is he

a food taster

?

A man eats what he does not have.

The food he eats is not his, but the person's whose taster he is. Further, he eats food he's not even actually having — as he is not having the meal, just tasting it.

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

If he actually had the meal, he wouldn't be a taster...

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Is he a

fast eater zombie? Never mind, it said what was eaten was unimportant. and per OP not thief

A man eats what he does not have.

A person eating, does not eat nothing.

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

If he was fasting, he wouldn't be eating, or rather if he was 'having' a fast, he wouldn't be a fast eater, or eater at all.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nope, also, similar with the poor man. Once he steals it, he actually possesses it, meaning he has it. I am guessing the way of obtaining it does not much matter. $\endgroup$ – Vucko Aug 18 '16 at 22:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Vucko, well, this makes me think he'd be in possession of whatever he 'ate', so 'eat' must be euphemistic, or "he's" fasting or in a coma. $\endgroup$ – John Aug 18 '16 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ As far as I know, he is a fan of Harry Poter. As he knows that I am not, he surely wouldn't have asked me a riddle he knows I can never guess (watched only HP part 1). $\endgroup$ – Vucko Aug 18 '16 at 22:47
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Maybe it's something around

hunger / being hungry.

Thus the thing he does not have is

the feeling of content, fullness.

A man eats what he does not have.

He eats now, he is not full yet.

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

If he had the feeling of being full, he wouldn't be hungry.

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  • $\begingroup$ I had a similar train of thought but not it either, I think. Needs to be materialistic. $\endgroup$ – Vucko Aug 18 '16 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ What he actually eats can be anything materialistic, for example an apple. But with the apple his hunger disappears as well. $\endgroup$ – elias Aug 18 '16 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, but in English and my native language, hunger is not something you have. It's the state you're in. Opposed to German where they say they have hunger. $\endgroup$ – Vucko Aug 18 '16 at 22:45
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Is he

a diver

A man eats what he does not have.

He doesn't have oxygen, so he must eat it.

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

No one is diving on land, where you can eat oxygen freely.

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Okay, so maybe there is something to the answer by @RobStone. So, could it be...

Eggs?

A man eats what he does not have

Man does not have (or lay) eggs. If we take this as poultry eggs, then this also pertains to a woman.

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

If a man had (or laid) eggs, then he wouldn't be a man, he would be either a woman (in the case of ovarian eggs) or a chicken (or reptile).

This could also work if "man" is taken to mean "human"

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  • $\begingroup$ It's not related to what particular thing he eats. $\endgroup$ – Vucko Aug 19 '16 at 19:02
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Is a man actually a man? Or is he, perhaps, a

Black hole?

A man eats what he does not have.

Sucking up more matter to become a part of himself. It doesn't matter if it's an apple, or a pear, or a planet, or whatever :)

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

Absorbing all the matter would leave it with nothing left to eat, it would also be emitting enormous amounts of radiation, and be difficult to call black.

Probably doesn't make any sense.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm really doubting that this is the solution... Good try though. $\endgroup$ – Vucko Aug 19 '16 at 13:30
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I think he is

Unconscionable (Immoral) man

A man eats what he does not have.

He eats anything from others.

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

if he was conscientious, and has morality in himself he wouldn't be unconscionable to eat things that are not in his property.

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A man eats what he does not have.

Nourishment.

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

If he had nourishment, he wouldn't be malnourished.

Who is he?

A malnourished man.

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If I had enough rep to vote to close I would. Here is another answer that fits. Personally I think a

poor man or a thief

is correct, but as the OP doesn't actually have the answer we could get any number of nutrient deficient men eating supplements.

A man eats what he does not have.

Iron (supplement tablets or any number of iron rich foods.)

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

If he had enough iron he wouldn't have anemia

Who is he?

A man with iron deficiency anemia

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  • $\begingroup$ You obviously answered with an answer where a thing he eats matters, and in the question it's obviously stated : Does it matter what particular thing he eats, e.g. does it change anything if it's an apple or a pear or whatever? Also no. Don't be mad if you can't solve it. $\endgroup$ – Vucko Aug 21 '16 at 10:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Vucko i certainly dont feel any shame in not being able to answer a poorly designed question designed to be solved using yes-no questions when we have no ability to ask yes-no questions and no actual way to know if the answer is right. You will "know" you have the right answer isnt good enough since I "know" a poor man is correct. If the object is materilistic and it doesnt matter what it is it basically leaves sets that contain all or none (anything, everything, nothing, etc) $\endgroup$ – gtwebb Aug 21 '16 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ Why was this even down-voted? It is logically sound. $\endgroup$ – ABcDexter Aug 24 '16 at 9:24
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He could be a

Nail biter

A man eats what he does not have.

As he eats his nails he now no longer has any

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

Were he to not bite his nails, they would grow back.

Doesn't quite fit the "Does it matter what particular thing he eats" question posed, as it does indeed matter in this answer

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Is he a

Moneylender?

A man eats what he does not have.

A moneylender lives off of interest that he is owed by the people, he is owed but never has

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

If he had all money he was owed he would no more be a moneylender.

Who is he?

A Moneylender

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  • $\begingroup$ Nah. Moneylender does not eat anything in your example. We have already concluded that he eats a material thing. $\endgroup$ – Vucko Aug 19 '16 at 15:51
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Who is he?

Slim guy

A man eats what he does not have.

Eats fatty food when he does not have fat

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

If he had fat he wouldn't be slim

To answer "You'll know once you have it"

Its possible for anyone to get fat. Once you get fat you will know.

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My take:

Humble pie

A man eats what he does not have.

A man eating humble pie

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

Who is he?

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I was disappointed by the accepted answer:

A man eats what he does not have.

A poor man, maybe a monk, does not have money, but won't eat that. And even buddhist monks have possessions, even Diogenes of Sinope had a cask and a cup. He broke the latter after seeing a child drink from a fountain with his hands. A monk may have faith, and poor man may have hope. And they won't eat that. And a eunuch?

So, I am proposing a quite extreme opposite:

Galactus

Explanation?

He is a fictional character in Marvel Comics. Formerly a mortal man (now immortal), he eats whole planets to sustain his life force. But he does not not own any planet. And would he own one planet, would he still be able to eat it? Only Stan Lee and Jack Kirby know. Till we don't know, this remains an open and undecidable question, so my assertion "If Galactus had a planet, he wouldn't be Galactus" is not false... so far.

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I understand that the answer has already been solved, though it was a convoluted one. More-so than the answer I have.

My answer revolves around biblical knowledge. I don't really have any, but a little research did me well.

With knowledge I gained Here Adam was alone in the Garden until Eve was created from one of his ribs.

A man eats what he does not have.

Adam ate the forbidden fruit. This didn't belong to him. Thus he did not have it.

-

Eve ate the fruit first, though there are two reasons why my logic still stands. 1 - The riddle speaks of a man, not a woman. 2 - Eve was created from a part of Adam, thus he was the original of the two. It all revolves around him.


If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

If he still had the rib that was taken, (The rib that was taken from him and used to create Eve) she would not have been persuaded to eat the fruit by the devil, meaning he wouldn't have been persuaded by the woman he loved to consume the apple.
He would not be a sinner.


Who is he?

He is Adam. The first man to be created by God.

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A man eats what he does not have.

he eats brains because he is insane because he doesn't have sanity (Brain)

If he had what he doesn't, he wouldn't be what he is.

If he would have brain (Sanity) then he might not be eating brains.

Who is he?

He is Brain Eater (Insane/psycho) person

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The man is

Gutless

He eats

Guts

If he had what he does not, he would not be what he is

If he had guts, he would not be gutless.

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The solution is a

Monk or eunuch

The explanation:

In order to be what he is, he has to give up all the earthly possessions, including whatever he eats. If he had or owned anything, he wouldn't be what he is.

I did not come to this solution myself, my friend told it to me finally.

This answer fills each of the riddle's requests, no more, no less. The thing that he eats is material and does not matter what it is.

There were many other good guesses, the best one got deleted though. Hope you liked this riddle, till next one :)

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    $\begingroup$ Id change the riddle to eats what he does not own. Because he still has the food. $\endgroup$ – gtwebb Aug 21 '16 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ I must admit, I was not especially happy about the solution myself, I expected more . . . It is what it is though... $\endgroup$ – Vucko Aug 21 '16 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ Ummmm...monk and eunuch are in no way synonymous. I don't see how a eunuch in general satisfies this riddle at all. $\endgroup$ – Dan Russell Aug 23 '16 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ Hmmm, a great riddle which has a sloppy solution. Disappointing $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Aug 23 '16 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ My guess was going to be "a faster" (one who is fasting). As soon as he eats, he is no longer fasting. $\endgroup$ – Bohemian Aug 27 '16 at 9:02

protected by Aza Aug 19 '16 at 7:20

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