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David Edward Cummings

When Does A Number Become Plural?

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1 cat, 2 cats. I get it with whole numbers. But what about that space between 1 and 2? 1 mile, 2 miles. 1.5 mile? One and a half mile? One and a half miles? Then what about decimals, like 0.5? Zero point five mile? Zero point five miles? Thoughts?
Dave

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One half of a mile is added to one mile. That makes it plural. One and a half miles. However, saying it the other way, always comes out singular. A mile and a half. I don't think you would ever say .5 mile/s. It would be half a mile.

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Think about the way you would say it when you speak.  

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So anything more than 1, even if it's not a whole number beyond 1, is plural. That's helpful.

 

There are definitely times when a decimal is read out. For example, 0.37 g of cocaine. Is it "zero point three seven gram" or "0.37 grams" even though it is less than one?

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Hmmm...you have a point. I would say then use the plural as it sounds good to the ear. Singular sounds strange, doesn't it?

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The writer and speaker in me wants to say "zero point three seven grams", but the scientist in me wants a strict rule to follow at all costs! Thanks for this little discussion. It has been enlightening!

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So I looked it up. According to the Math Page,

http://www.themathpage.com/arith/decimals-2.htm

for how to read it.

Same on 

 

 

And one more for confirmation https://sciencing.com/read-decimal-place-value-7533635.html

 

If you read 3/8 as three eighths, then the fraction is plural, because three is plural. 1/16 would then be singular, because one is singular. The fact that it is less than one doesn't matter, because you are relating to the top of the fraction.

 

Using a decimal as the subject would be the same, I would think. 0.1 would be one tenth, so singular. 1.05 would be plural as one and five one hundredths.

 

Personally, I would avoid making the number the subject. Then you don't have to worry about it.

 

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Posted (edited)
On 7/7/2018 at 9:55 PM, David Edward Cummings said:

So anything more than 1, even if it's not a whole number beyond 1, is plural. That's helpful.

 

There are definitely times when a decimal is read out. For example, 0.37 g of cocaine. Is it "zero point three seven gram" or "0.37 grams" even though it is less than one?

Three hundred seventy milligrams. Therefore plural. Metric is so cool!

Edited by EClayRowe
ET on phone at home

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Posted (edited)

You can always check a style guide,...they will give publishing standards for how to put numbers in written form. Publishers also offer manuscript guidelines if you are submitting articles to newspapers or magazines! 

Edited by Katherine Johnston

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