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kg, m, ml and other units of measurement

Discussion in 'English Only' started by shuiyue, Sep 1, 2011.

  1. shuiyue Junior Member

    Chinese
    Hi, what is the rule with regard to units of measurement in abbreviation and the use of plurals. To illustrate what I mean, the plural form is needed when the unit is expressed in full:

    1. I drink 250 milliliters of milk.

    If abbreviation is used, there is no plural form:

    2. I drink 250 ml of milk.

    But, in speech I often hear people express the abbreviated unit in plural form:

    3. "I drink 250 mls of milk."

    Is sentence 3 wrong, or is it customary to use the plural form in speech?
     
  2. Albertovna

    Albertovna Senior Member

    Novosibirsk
    Russian - Russia
    You probably mean informal writing, not informal speech.
    In all three, why not just "a glass of milk"? :)
    I think sentence (2) is wrong ("of" has to be omitted).
    Sentence (3) seems OK to me. The plural -s + of is a normal combination. However, the sentence really looks very, very colloquial.
    Nevertheless, you had better ask a native speaker. I am not one.
     
  3. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    It is not necessary nor common to pluralise the abbreviations kg, m, ml and other units of measurement when writing. People do add the 's', however, I am not quite sure why they do this, as it adds nothing.

    However, when speaking, the units are plural - "...250 millilitres of milk...", or abbreviated i.e. "The recipe required 250 mill'/mills of milk." or "...2 kilos of apples..."

    Oh, and you must always keep the "of"
     
  4. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    I don't think the abbreviation "ml" can really be pronounced; it's a written form and as it's abbreviated we don't lengthen it by adding "s".

    The spoken abbreviation is pronounced "mil" and has a plural "mils".

    PS I see PaulQ spells it "mill"; I won't dispute that, because in writing we write either the abbreviation "ml" or the complete word.
     
  5. exgerman Senior Member

    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    It's spelled ml and is pronounced as millilitres when talking about more than one. So:

    1 ml = "one millilitre"
    250 ml = "250 millilitres"

    Personally I would not write mls and I think an editor would change it to ml.
     
  6. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    Pronunciation of abbreviations:
    Kilogram(s) = Kilo(s) / less common = K-G(s) (pron Kay-Gee(z))
    Millilitre(s)/Milliliter(s) - Mill(s) / commoner in medicine and science = M-L(z) (pron Em-El(z))
     
  7. Albertovna

    Albertovna Senior Member

    Novosibirsk
    Russian - Russia
    I read in some grammar book that expressions like "250 ml OF water" were wrong and it should be without "of" (whereas "250 milliliters of water" is fine).
    Am I mistaken??? Are the authors of this book mistaken???
     
  8. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    Ah! I misunderstood.

    Written - "250 ml OF water":cross:
    Spoken - "250 ml* OF water" = heard often. * see my post #6 for pronuciation

    Written - "250 milliliters of water":tick:
    Spoken - "250 milliliters of water":tick:
     
  9. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    I wouldn't say that writing "250 ml of water" is wrong, it's just that if we're abbreviating, let's abbreviate! The result is ungrammatical but convenient, especially in a list of ingredients rather than in a proper sentence.
     
  10. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    NB I wrote 'mill' for the pronunciation only.

    Edit bold font to attract the attention of the OP. (one 'mil' = one one-thousandth of one inch.)
     
  11. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    The trick here is to realise that the 'SI' in SI units stands for International System (or whatever is the French equivalent), and so they are units that are designed to be used across (national) linguistic borders. Different languages pluralise differently, not always with an 's'. The plurality, if you need to think of one, will be informed by the number standing immediately to the left (in English at any rate) of the unit. To deviate from this convention is to risk extreme and unnecessary confusion. (not to mention Mars landers that miss the planet entirely)

    Would you really want to pluralise 0.25kg? Some do, when speaking, but don't mess with the unit.

    Also the SI unit for time, the second, has for its symbol an 's' - so that ten seconds be written '10s' (and most definitely not '10ss' - some may even construe this as 'seconds squared').
     
  12. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I agree with what others have said with regard to formal contexts of use. We don't use SI units or standard abbreviations all the time, particularly in less formal situations.

    Beryl mentioned the SI abbreviation for second(s) 's'. Many English speakers will continue to use 'sec' (and therefore pluralise 'secs'). There's also 'h' for 'hour(s)', but many continue to use 'hr' and 'hrs'. If you use imperial measurements, it is also common to add the s ('The baby weighed in at 7 lbs 3 ozs, and was 21 ins long'); though again you might also see the units without the s ('The baby weighed in at 7 lb 3 oz, and was 21" long').
     
  13. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    And, unfortunately, you will also see rpms and mphs :eek:
    For the SI or (other) units where the abbreviaion (without s) is being read out loud (particularly if there is a decimal point), the unit is always plural except when the number before it is the integer 1. There are a few threads about that - I'll try and dig one up later...
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2011
  14. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    It is actually part of the SI standard that no plural or other markers (e.g. period as an abbreviation marker) be affixed to the unit symbols.
     
  15. shuiyue Junior Member

    Chinese
    So the rule, which is specifically applied to SI units, is that units should not be pluralised when they're abbreviated in either the written or spoken form?

    But for other systems of measurement, such as the imperial system, the units may be pluralised in both the written and spoken forms?
     
  16. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I think only the written form. It's difficult to police the spoken form, and you tend to read the full form rather than the abbreviation. As others have said, if you see '50 ml water', speakers tend to say 'fifty mils of water' or 'fifty millilitres of water', rather than 'fifty em ell water'.
     
  17. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    The standard is only concerned with written representations. Here you can download the "SI brochure" which defines the standard. See chapter 5.1.
     

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