three times longer than=three times as long as?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by kent78, Sep 5, 2010.

  1. kent78 New Member

    Central China
    Chinese
    Hi,
    Look at the following two sentences:
    The rope is three times longer than that one.
    The rope is three times as long as that one.
    Do the two sentences mean the same?
    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    Unless the speaker or writer defined it differently, I would suppose that three times longer than meant the same thing as four times as long as. "Longer" seems to refer to the difference between the two lengths.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2010
  3. Spira Senior Member

    South of France
    UK English
    3 hours is three times longer than one hour, isn't it? The times refers to a multiplication.
    And 3 hours is 3 times as long as one hour.
    So they both mean the same in my book.
     
  4. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    There are several previous threads about this type of issue, kent. Here's one that give links to some earlier threads: ...times ... than/as.
     
  5. kent78 New Member

    Central China
    Chinese
    From above, there still is no agreement about the two sentences. Anyway, thank you three for your timely reply.
     
  6. Spira Senior Member

    South of France
    UK English
    You are correct Kent. There is no agreement.
    I am amazed reading the links provided by Loob (and, indirectly, others) that 3 x longer, or any x longer, can be interpreted as the (multiplication x) plus the original figure.
    Smacks to me of looking for complications just for the sake of it, but there you are.
    I still say that a film 3 times longer than another lasts 300% the time of the other.
    But others disagree.
     
  7. jonmaz Senior Member

    melbourne
    English-Australia
    If I may be permitted to say, "The rope is one times longer than that one", then one is twice the length of the other...not of equal length. The speaker (writer) has indicated that one is longer than the other.


    This seems to support the notion that three times longer than means the same thing as four times as long as.
     
  8. Spira Senior Member

    South of France
    UK English
    I understand your reasoning, jonmaz, but the simple truth is that native English speakers would NEVER say something is one time (or one times) longer than another thing. It's just not said. Or understood.
    If you mean double the length, then choose "double" as your verb, or "twice" the length.

    You see: 1 times 1 = 1, whereas 1 plus 1 = 2
    2 times 1 = 2
    3 times 1 = 3 etc
     
  9. True_Liberal New Member

    Cincinnati
    English (American)
    I have seen a like expression "three times less than ..." or "117% less than ..." used in print. I submit that this is meaningless - unless the writer deigns the cite the actual numbers involved.
     
  10. jonmaz Senior Member

    melbourne
    English-Australia


    Thanks Spira. We speak a version of English down here in Australia and, happily, I too like "native English speakers", have never and would never say something like "one times". I failed to make that clear it seems.

    I am from the camp who when saying or hearing that b is three times longer than a, believes b to be four times the length of a. Obviously such statements are ambiguous and if one's life depended upon knowing the actual length of a rope, it would be prudent to construct the sentence providing unmistakable details.

    In the meantime...isn't this fun!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 5, 2010
  11. Spira Senior Member

    South of France
    UK English
    Jonmaz, I actually did not notice that you were from Australia, and therefore a native English-speaker! My apologies.
    Having said that, no, you did not make it clear that you would not say "one times".
    Which is what lead me to believe that English was not your first language.

    I have discovered the existence of "your camp" on this question only today thanks to this forum.
     
  12. jonmaz Senior Member

    melbourne
    English-Australia
    Hello Spira. An apology was not sought or necessary but thanks anyway.

    Our primary task is to help the Chinese speaking kent78 with his/her enquiry. I think that, between us all, we have shown that there probably are better ways of describing the relative lengths of ropes. “This rope is three times the length of that one” would be simple enough.
     
  13. arueng Senior Member

    CHINESE
    <<Moderator note : Arueng's question has been merged with this thread>>

    It usually takes me ten minutes to get to the train station.
    It takes me thirty minutes to get to the train station during rush hours.


    Hi,
    Is it right to combine the above two into the following one? If not, how should I say it right? Thanks.

    It takes me three times more time than usual to get to the train station during rush hours.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 19, 2013
  14. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
    If it took you twenty minutes you would say "It took me twice as long as usual".
    If it takes you thirty minutes you say "It takes me three times longer than usual".
     
  15. arueng Senior Member

    CHINESE
    Thanks, Velisa, for the quick reply.
    Your versions are perfect to me.
    I wonder if the following are also ok.

    It takes me triples as much time as usual.
    It takes me three times as much time as usual.
     
  16. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
    It takes me triples as much time as usual. :cross:
    It takes me three times as much time as usual I don't find this incorrect, but the repetition of 'time' is clumsy and I haven't seen or heard it used. There are other possibilities, but they seem clumsy to me. Do others have any suggestions?
     
  17. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I would advise caution on the use of a comparative followed by than. I would stick with "three times as long" to avoid the possible interpretation that it takes "X minutes plus 3x minutes". I'll see if I can find a thread with that discussion. Here's one such thread.
     
  18. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    Julian is right about the ambiguity of "three times longer", but (unfortunately for those of us who prefer logical expression :)) people talk that way.
    I agree with velisarius that it's better to use "longer", in order to avoid the repetition of "time" (with different meanings).
     
  19. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Or even "three times as long as usual" - avoiding the repetition and the ambiguity :D
     
  20. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    <<Moderator note: Wandle's comment was added to this thread before the insertion of posts 13-19 by the merge operation>>
    p
    Well, that beats all. This is directly contrary to what we are taught in school about the meaning of the English expression 'three times longer than' (at least, what I was taught and what everyone I have ever known or read would understand).

    What could possibly be the logic which makes three times equal four times?

    Having got over my initial amazement, and attempting to find some sense in it, I arrive at the following.

    Suppose a is two feet long.
    If we say b is three feet longer than a, we mean that b equals a plus three feet. In this case, b is five feet long.

    Accordingly, it seems, the three-equals-four camp are saying to themselves:

    "If we say b is three times longer than a, we mean that b equals a plus 'three times'.
    Now three times two is six, therefore b equals two plus six: equals eight feet long."

    This seems to me to be nothing but a misunderstanding of 'three times longer than'.
    'Three times longer' expresses simply a multiplication (b = 3a), not a multiplication plus an addition (b = 3a + a).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 19, 2013
  21. Lucia_zwl

    Lucia_zwl Senior Member

    Oh I also have problem with twice and triple...so, continue with the OP, may I say:
    It takes me 30 minutes to get to the train station during rush hours, nearly triple that as usual.
    (as I found in the dictionary: triple something--three times as large as something)

    And what about replacing "triple" with "twice", like:
    ..., nearly twice as usual. (without that, I assume)

    What do you think? Thanks!
     
  22. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Stick A is three feet longer than stick B. if stick B is 1 foot long, then stick A is 4 feet long.
    In this construction we "add" the three excess items to the original item.

    I believe the above is the cause of the confusion in those who are confused.
    Some seem to see it as analogous Stick A is three times longer than stick B.

    Given that there are people who think this way, the "times [comparative] than" construction should be avoided.
     
  23. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    Yes. We are addding an express quantity (three feet).

    However, 'three times x' is not an express quantity, but a function of a variable.
    The variable to which it applies cannot be anything other than the initial quantity (here, one foot).
    Once that calculation is worked out (three times one is three), the expression of the formula 'three times longer' is completed. Job done.

    It seems a very sad day if we are reduced to this precaution.
     
  24. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I agree and I was surprised to find that ambiguity existed. However, I also find it hard to conceive of a world where my innate mathematical ability did not exist and the whole numerical skill was absent. I was born finding arithmetic amd mathematics very easy (perhaps you were too:) ) but not everyone was so fortunate and some would simply not understand the meaning of
    .
     
  25. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    Connecticut
    English - US (Midwest)
    Precisely. And "three feet longer" than one foot is four feet.
     
  26. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    Correct. That is an example of addition.
    'Three times longer' is an example of multiplication. Three times one equals three.

    Each of the two cases involves one operation.
     
  27. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    Connecticut
    English - US (Midwest)
    "Three times longer" tells how much longer than the original length. The new length is derived by adding the additional amount to the original. Three times longer than one is (three times one plus one).
     
  28. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    The operation 'times' does not and cannot include the operation 'plus'.
    If there is to be an addition as well as a multiplication, it needs to be separately expressed.

    The expression 'three times one plus one' does include two operations, separately expressed.
    The expression 'three times longer than one' contains only one operation. It is multiplication only.
     
  29. chevrons2 New Member

    English - England
    The confusion isn't in the meaning of 'three times'. It is in the meanings of and differences between the expressions: 'as long as' & 'longer than'.

    My interpretation are that:
    1. 'as long as' means 'the same length as'.
    2. 'longer' means 'additional length'.
    3. 'longer than...' means 'additional length compared to...', or 'a length in addition to that of the object to which it is being compared'.

    If you just say that one thing is 'longer than' another thing, then there can be no confusion: One thing has an additional length when compared to the other.

    However, when you quantify the difference in length, you have two ways of doing so:
    1. You can either say that one thing is a number of times the length of the other, (eg: '...three times as long as...', or
    2. You can say that one thing is a number of times longer than the other.
    However, the number used will not be the same in each case.
    If you are saying that one thing is 'longer than' the other, then whatever the quantity is, it is 'in addition to' the length of the other.

    Therefore, in the expression 'three times longer than one', there ARE two operations: multiplication and addition.

    Lets change the expression slightly, to: '3 times longer than a'.
    'three times' means that you are multiplying 'a' by three: 3 x a = 3a.
    'longer than' means 'an additional length' or 'a length in addition to', so you need to add it.
    So, 'three times longer than a' means: 3 x a in addition to a: 3a + a = 4a.

    If you mean that one thing is 3 times the length of the other, that's what you should say: 'b is three times as long as a'.
    If you say that it 'b is three times LONGER THAN a' you are stating that 'the ADDITIONAL LENGTH of b is three times that of a', (so b = a + 3a =4a).
     
  30. chevrons2 New Member

    English - England
    If the above still does not clarify the situation, how about we break remove the confusion by breaking down the two expressions mathematically:
    Some people are claiming that:
    'b is three times AS LONG AS a' is the same as 'b is three times LONGER THAN a', so:
    'b is 3 times AS LONG AS a' = 'b is 3 times LONGER THAN a',
    Then, if we take away the objects (b and a), to just leave us with the expressions that describe the relationship between the objects:
    'three times AS LONG AS' = 'three times LONGER THAN'
    Does anyone still think that makes sense?. If so, how about we take away the quantity:
    'AS LONG AS' = 'LONGER THAN'
    If anyone still believes that the two expressions mean the same thing, please explain to me where I have gone wrong.
     
  31. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    Chevrons2, your mathematical argument is impregnable.

    However, English doesn't work like that - English isn't mathematics. I think that enough people have responded to this question (myself included) to demonstrate that both these terms are regularly used to mean three times, not four times, whatever comparative phrase comes after.

    Having said that, I would advise a foreign learner to use "this rope is three times as long as that one" if only to remain consistent with the expressions "this rope is as long as that one" and "this rope is twice as long as that one" where "longer" can't be used.
     
  32. chevrons2 New Member

    English - England
    I'm not sure where the misconception about 'as long as' and 'longer than' having the same meaning originally came from but I agree that it is commonplace. I would guess that like a lot of commonly used incorrectly constructed english, it came from american influences and quickly spread due to media and advertising.
    If incorrect english is used by more and more people, at what point does it become used often enough to become 'correct'? Have we reached that point with expressions like: "I will likely go out tonight"? I've heard lots of people use 'likely' in this way, so should I now claim that this is correct use of english because it has become common usage by the people around me?
    Going back to some people's belief that 'as long as' means the same as 'longer than', should this be accepted in advertising? If one company claims that their product lasts '2 times LONGER' than that of their competition, should we accept their claim, even though it actually only lasts twice AS LONG AS the rival's product? Is what they claim correct? Is it accurate? Is it ambiguous? Is it misleading? Is it correct use of English?
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2015 at 12:50 PM
  33. Delvo Senior Member

    American English
    If you want to be certain of how your sentence will be interpreted, just stick to "...as long as". There's no ambiguity with that one alone; it's only "...longer than" that introduces any trouble.
     
  34. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    chevrons2, there are plenty of BE speakers here who, correctly in my opinion, interpret "three times longer than a one-foot rule" as meaning "one yard", and plenty of AE speakers who have expressed the contrary opinion that it means "four feet". Suggesting that Americans speak an inferior form of English which has in some way had an adverse effect on proper English strikes me as not only being wrong-headed, but pretty offensive.

    Your claim to uphold correct usage might be helped, a little, if you wrote "American" and "English" correctly.
     
  35. chevrons2 New Member

    English - England
    So we in agreement then, that the two expressions do not have the same meaning.
    However, I can see that some may argue that common usage has (in the minds of those who commonly use one to mean the other) given them the same meaning, in the same way that some people might say 'I didn't say nothing' to mean the opposite.
    Both sentences, 'This rope is three times as long as that one' & 'This rope is three times longer than that one' are correct uses of English to mean two different things. Either sentences can be used but in different circumstances. If anyone still thinks that 'common usage' dictates that they have the same meaning then do you also apply that criteria to the following:
    One could say in coversation 'I didn't say nothing' to mean 'I didn't just sit there silently. I spoke out'. Someone else might say 'I didn't say nothing' to mean 'I didn't say anything'.
    'I didn't say nothing' and 'I didn't say anything' have different meanings. I would suggest that using the expression 'I didn't say nothing' to mean 'I didn't say anything' is widespread in England. (Not just in locations where it could be considered to be local dialect). Does this common usage make its incorrect use acceptable now as correct use of English, in the same way that some are suggesting is the case with our 'as long as'/'longer than' expressions?
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2015 at 7:08 PM
  36. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    Nainital
    India - Hindi
    chevrons 2 said, "Both sentences, 'This rope is three times longer than that one' & 'This rope is three times longer than that one' are correct uses of English to mean two different things."
    I think they are both the same, with no difference whatsoever. Or have my eyes become too weak? You probably wanted to write "three times as long as" in one of them, chevrons 2.
     
  37. chevrons2 New Member

    English - England
    I'm sorry Andygc. I did not mean to cause offence. I probably should have worded that better (!)
    I am not suggesting that American English is inferior. I am saying that in advertising in England, the phrases and expressions used are very often taken from American English and/or youth culture without any regard for the correct use of English. In advertising, when comparing your product to someone else's, 'longer' is a good positive word for customers to subconsciously hear.
    I do not claim to uphold correct usage. I am only giving my opinion and trying to explain why I believe what I believe about a particular expression that irritates me when it is used, in my opinion, incorrectly. I would be happy to accept that I may be mistaken if someone would explain why. I do not beleive that anyone here has adequately done that yet. You are absolutely correct about the way that I have written 'English' and 'American' on some occasions. I have been using a phone with a small key pad and predictive text but that is no excuse. I'm sure that I have made other mistakes too......
    Oops! I will go back and edit it. Thank you.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2015 at 5:14 PM
  38. Barque Senior Member

    India
    Tamil
    Whether "three times longer than" is commonly used to mean the same as "three times as long as" or not, I agree with Chevrons2 that they mean different things.

    Instead of "three times" which means "multiplied by three", let's use "fifty percent" which means "one half times" or "multiplied by one half". Most people would agree that "fifty percent of its length" and "fifty percent longer than" are two different things. Yes, I have used different terms - "of" instead of "as long as" but the general meaning and principle are the same.
     
  39. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    Barque, as has already been pointed out, English is neither mathematics nor logic. You can do as many arithmetic calculations as you like, but for many people, "three times longer than" and "three times as long as" mean the same. For me, and many others here, a yard is three times longer than a foot and a yard is three times as long as a foot. That's just the way the language is for us. Like wandle, I can't understand the argument that the answer is four feet. That's the way I've understood it since I was a child, and that meaning has nothing to do with an American influence on British English.

    There's been exactly the same discussion in this forum about "... times bigger than ..." with exactly the same disagreement.
     
  40. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    The other position seems to be based on a parallel to "This stick is 3 feet longer than that one" where the extra is added to the original.
     
  41. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    Connecticut
    English - US (Midwest)
    Whereas I am utterly baffled that anyone could possibly think that "as long as" and "more than" mean the same.
     
  42. atokad Senior Member

    In theory, I'm more sympathetic to view that "three times longer than" = "four times as long as." That just makes more sense to me. However, in practice, I think I rarely actually use the expression "times longer than" in this way. I can split my usage into "careful usage" and "sloppy usage."

    Sloppy usage: If I compare a yard to a foot, the first number that comes into my head is 3. Not 2. So I'm going to use three, in combination with some expression involving length. Maybe I'll say a yard is three times as long as a foot, or maybe I'll say a yard is three times longer than a foot. I'm not being careful about whether my words are mathematically precise, so I'll say whatever phrase comes into my head first. But note that whatever phrasing I use, the number is always three. Maybe other people's brains work differently, but when I compare numbers, in most cases I tend to think in terms of ratios, not in terms of (ratio-1). Even though the sentence A yard is two times longer than a foot makes sense to me logically and mathematically, it strikes me awfully weird to use the number two when comparing feet and yards. It's even more difficult for me to imagine someone saying A mile is 5279 times longer than a foot.

    Careful usage: I know that the phrase "three times longer than" could be interpreted differently by different people, so I'll avoid it entirely, and always switch to something unambiguous, like "three times as long as."
     
  43. chevrons2 New Member

    English - England
    Atokad, you are the second person here to say that, although you might have used both expressions in the past to mean the same thing, you see that 'three times longer than' is ambiguous.
    The original poster asked whether the two expressions mean the same thing. Obviously it does not:
    There is no denying that some people do use both to mean the same thing. However, it seems that although 'as long as' will always be interpreted as intended, the interpretation of 'times longer than' will depended on the person hearing the expression and also on the subject of the comparison:
    I agree that saying that a yard is 'three times as long as a foot' sounds much better than 'two times longer than a foot', because we assossiate the number 3 with the comparison of those lengths. This is another reason that 'as long as' is, in my opinion, a much more appropriate way to express what one is trying to convey.

    I'm curious. Do those who still maintain that the two expressions have the same meaning feel the same about using the expression 'three times less than' to mean 'a third of' ? If so, I think we will need to start another thread!
     
  44. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    In (what is now #22 in) this thread I said
    in favour of the "X times as adjective as .. " form.

    The "times less than" does have its own thread, I think (well, here's one on the subject - it veers into "negative pressure /length etc and my brain hurt from some versions :( )
     
  45. chevrons2 New Member

    English - England
    Thanks Julian. I found, on another thread, a good example of what you and I have been trying to explain. I have quoted it below.
    The 'times less than' discussion, on the thread that you linked to, could have been much easier to follow/explain using different examples but perhaps pursuing that here, on this thread, would complicate things, (although it seems that both expressions are used incorrectly for similar reasons, which is why I brought it up).
    Anyway, here's that quote from another thread:
     
  46. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    I think that one of the reasons this thread has dragged on so long without agreement (and I for one do not concur with Chevron's statement in #35 "So we in agreement then, that the two expressions do not have the same meaning") is the old belief that words in themselves have a meaning.

    Words do not have a meaning in themselves; they only have a meaning in context. The word "pain" means something quite different for an Englishman and a Frenchman. The word "long" doesn't mean the same for a mathematician and a psychiatrist. I understand RM1(SS)'s statement in #41 that he is utterly baffled that anyone could possibly think that "as long as" and "more than" mean the same. They don't, in abstraction. But once you put them together in the context of "three times as long as/longer than" then you just have to accept that many millions of educated and literate native English speakers from both sides of the Atlantic use them synonymously and don't find their everyday conversations handicapped by it. Funny old language, isn't it?
     
  47. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    Nainital
    India - Hindi
    I, a non-native, have always believed the two to mean the same thing, but if I concentrate on "longer" and its meaning, I get confused ( only now, never before!). But I will take Keith Bradford's explanation and save myself.




    And a full context and a complete sentence are what an OP is asked to provide in WR even if he/she asks the meaning of "iPod" or "methane", for example.
     
  48. chevrons2 New Member

    English - England
    Really?
    Obviously some words can have more than one meaning but just because some do, that doesn't mean that you can apply that to any word you choose. Anyway, we are not asking whether any of the words in these expressions, or the expressions as a whole, can have more than one meaning, (are we?). We are asking whether the different words, or the different expressions, have the same meaning. The words that are identical in each expression mean exactly the same thing in each expression. The words that are different in each expression, (eg: 'long' and 'longer'), do not have the same meaning and therefore gives the two expressions different meaning.

    I completely agree that many people use 'three times longer than' to mean 'three times as long as'. You, (and others), have suggested that this is therefore 'common usage' and therefore should be accepted. You referred to my post #35. Here is another part of that post:

    Either sentence can be used but in different circumstances. If anyone still thinks that 'common usage' dictates that they have the same meaning, then do you also apply that criteria to the following:
    One could say in conversation 'I didn't say nothing' to mean 'I didn't just sit there silently. I spoke out'. Someone else might say 'I didn't say nothing' to mean 'I didn't say anything'.
    'I didn't say nothing' and 'I didn't say anything' have different meanings. I would suggest that using the expression 'I didn't say nothing' to mean 'I didn't say anything' is widespread in England. (Not just in locations where it could be considered to be local dialect). Does this common usage make its incorrect use acceptable now, as correct use of English, in the same way that some are suggesting is the case with our 'as long as'/'longer than' expressions?
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2015 at 1:04 PM
  49. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    I think you may have overlooked the phrase "many millions of educated and literate native English speakers" in my post #46 (my emphasis). This is the same rule that has governed English for centuries, despite efforts by a few more logical minds to impose a mathematical or classical model on the language, and despite illiteracies like 'I didn't say nothing'.
     
  50. chevrons2 New Member

    English - England
    Sorry. Yes. Although I read what you had written, I didn't take that part in fully. I agree that a large number of people use one expression to mean the other. However, as the original question was whether the two phrases had the same meaning, I feel that in the interest of helping those people who want an answer to that question, we need to explore the reasons why some people believe that they are different. I feel that I and others have given several logical reasons why they are not. I don't think that anyone has put forward a persuasive enough argument yet, that the two expressions mean the same thing. Saying that 'longer than' means the same as 'as long as' just because a large enough number of people believe it is not enough to convince me at least. Maybe it is for some people. I'm afraid that I need a rational explanation of how the two expressions mean the same thing. I'm not going to blindly believe something just because millions of people apparently believe it.
    Here's an alternative to that last sentence:
    I'm not going to blindly believe something just because apparently millions of people believe it.
    I could have used either sentence to end my ramble but they mean different things, no matter how many people would not see a difference.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2015 at 4:55 PM

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