5-foot-long / 5-feet-long

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Vocabulary / Vocabulario Español-Inglés' started by Tadeo, Jun 6, 2007.

  1. Tadeo Senior Member

    Español (México)

    I just read some discussions about this but I still don't get it straight;
    when we use inches, meters, feet, as adjective, we write the number and the word( inch, meter) in singular right?

    I mean:

    3-inch heel
    20-dollar bill

    But i've seen that when using foot things become a little more complicated
    Which of the following is the correct one?

    a 5-feet-long rope
    a 5-foot-long rope

    Some people say that both are correct, but I'm sure that only one of them is so.

    Actually I've heard people saying:
    I'm 5 feet tall and also I'm 5 foot tall so ?

    What is the correct structure? Thank you!
  2. Chris K Senior Member

    Tacoma WA, US
    English / US
    A five-foot-long rope is correct, but I'm five feet tall is correct. It is not unusual, however, to hear "I'm five foot tall" in casual conversation.
  3. Coffy Senior Member

    Is there a rule for this?

  4. gotitadeleche Senior Member

    Texas, U.S.A.
    U.S.A. English
    Yes, when the phrase is used as a whole to describe something (when it functions as an adjective phrase before the noun), you hypenate it and use the singular form of the measurement. Eg.: five-yard-long rope; six-foot-tall man; ten-year-old boy.

    If the description comes after the verb you don't use hyphens and you use the plural form of the measurement. Eg: the rope is five yards long; the man is six feet tall; the boy is ten years old.
  5. Coffy Senior Member

    hmm ok but you are saying "when the phrase is used as a whole to describe something (when it functions as an adjective phrase before the noun), you hypenate it and use the singular form of the measurement." and one of your examples is: "six-foot-tall man".

    And then: "If the description comes after the verb you don't use hyphens and you use the plural form of the measurement." and the example is "the man is six feet tall".

  6. gotitadeleche Senior Member

    Texas, U.S.A.
    U.S.A. English
    I'm not sure what you are questioning. My examples are consistent with the rule: foot = singular form, feet = plural form.
  7. speedier

    speedier Senior Member

    I agree entirely with gotitadaleche, but as you're having trouble with it Coffy, here it is in a slightly different way (from Bill Bryson's excellent book "Troubleome Words").

    We don't have six-feet-tall men, in the same way as we don't have teethbrushes or horses races. In English, when one noun qualifies another the first is *almost always singular.

    When a noun is not being made to function as an adjective, the plural is the usual form. Thus, a wall that is six feet high is a six-foot-high wall.

    *There are exceptions "systems analyst", "singles bar' - but usually they appear only when the normal form would produce ambiguity.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2010
  8. Coffy Senior Member

    Ops, you are totally right gogitadeleche. I'm really sorry, it slipped my mind! Thanks for your explanation.
    Thanks to speedier too, it is pretty clear now!
  9. tnation557 New Member

    "Singles bar" was used as an example, but I think it should be "singles' bar" the plural possessive of single.
  10. gengo

    gengo Senior Member

    Nope, it's not possessive. It's an adjectival noun in the plural, which is used to eliminate the ambiguity that would result if it were "single bar." There are many such exceptions to this general rule, some of which make more sense than others.
  11. duvija

    duvija Senior Member

    Spanish - Uruguay
    Gengo is right. There are exceptions, but not that many. (Most come from French). It's a nice rule.

    a book club
    a windshield window washer
    a (ugh) shoe shine
    a DVD cleaner
    (you get in trouble if you want a diminutive of those words. It Spanish, it's easier).
    Un lustrabotitas would be a young shoe shine, and not someone who only shines small boots).

  12. gengo

    gengo Senior Member

    Actually, there are countless exceptions. See this site and look under "plural exceptions" to see just a few.
  13. duvija

    duvija Senior Member

    Spanish - Uruguay

    Nice page!
    But I don't agree with some of the stuff:
    "She is studying to get a Linguistics degree". (Specifies a degree.)

    Why is this an example of a plural? It's the same as Mathematics, Physics, etc. which don't act syntactically as plurals, do they? It's not that somone studies one kind of linguistics, and someone else another.
    I cannot imagine:
    - I study Mathematics.
    - Really, which one?

  14. jilar Senior Member

    Galicia, España
    Curiosa, muy curiosa esta regla en inglés. Yo creo que ese día falté a clase ... o directamente no se suele explicar.

    Llego a este tema porque ahora mismo estoy viendo la película "El ataque de la mujer de 50 pies", o sea, unos 15 metros :) ¡pedazo mujer!

    Y me sorprendía que el título original "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" empleaba el singular, "foot", cuando se refiere a un número diferente a 1.
  15. gengo

    gengo Senior Member

    That Spanish translation could be ambiguous, no? That is, it could mean what it is supposed to mean (la mujer que mide 50 pies), or it could mean something else (la mujer que tiene 50 pies, which would be "the 50-footed woman" in English).

    But now you understand the rule, right?
  16. jilar Senior Member

    Galicia, España
    Sí, es ambigua tal cual han traducido el título. Para mí es una mala traducción ya que la unidad habrá que traducirla/adaptarla también.
    En ese caso ya no habría ambigüedad con el título de la película en castellano.
    "El ataque de la mujer de 15 metros"

    Cierto que las traducciones en películas y series, y hasta libros, hacen lo que les da la gana, a veces se hace una traducción literal (siempre que tenga sentido es lo ideal a mi modo de ver), otras veces hay cierta adaptación para que en la lengua de destino tenga sentido, y otras veces simplemente se crea una frase totalmente nueva, que no tiene mucho que ver con el título original.

    Algunos ejemplos:
    Superman = Superman (y no Superhombre)
    Ultimate Survival (or Man vs. Wild) = El último superviviente. Y no "supervivencia extrema" que es literalmente lo que significa Ultima survival ¿o no?

    En libros, en castellano es famoso el título "Por quién doblan las campanas"
    El original usa el singular "For whom the bell tolls"

    Y podríamos seguir :p

    Espero ir aprendiendo la regla con el uso, buen uso :)

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