0.175 meters, or 0.175 meter?

sus4

Senior Member
Japan - Japanese
Hi,

I'd really appreciate it if any of you could help me with this:

When you express a number below 1, does a unit for the number take a singular form, or plural?

For example, I know 17.5 is plural and therefore you use "centimeters." But what if you use "meter" as a unit? Which do you use, 0.175 meters or 0.175 meter?

1) 0.01 kilogram or 0.01 kilograms?
2) 1.1 inch or 1.1 inches?
3) -0.1 degree or -0.1 degrees?

I'm confused, but I believe there's a strict rule for this.

Thank you.
 
  • Aupick

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Hello sus4 and welcome to the forum,

    For some reason decimals are always plural, whether above or below 1, so:
    0.175 meters
    1) 0.01 kilograms
    2) 1.1 inches
    3) -0.1 degrees
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Yes - I agree with Aupick. However, note that there are some measures that never take a plural such as "stone" no matter what the number "13 stone". And colloquially many more "4 pound 50" "3 mile long". But this is a phenomenon which affects all plurals, not just those involving decimals.
     

    *Cowgirl*

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Aupick said:
    Hello sus4 and welcome to the forum,

    For some reason decimals are always plural, whether above or below 1, so:
    0.175 meters
    1) 0.01 kilograms
    2) 1.1 inches
    3) -0.1 degrees
    I agree.

    'Kilometres', 'Metres' and 'Centimetres' (note the spelling) used in BE more than meters etc....
    Over here we say meters, kiilometers, centimeters....:)
     

    sus4

    Senior Member
    Japan - Japanese
    Hi,

    Thank you all for helping me! It's intriguing to know that decimals below 1 are plural. I'll keep this rule in mind.

    I would guess the difference in spelling between BE and AE is not uncommon. Perhaps it's like the difference between "theather" and "theatre."

    Again, I really appreciate your help.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    timpeac said:
    Yes - I agree with Aupick. However, note that there are some measures that never take a plural such as "stone" no matter what the number "13 stone". And colloquially many more "4 pound 50" "3 mile long". But this is a phenomenon which affects all plurals, not just those involving decimals.
    In American English it's "3 miles long." At least that's how I've always heard it.

    As for "stone," I've personally never heard it used as a measurement. What does it measure?
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    elroy said:
    As for "stone," I've personally never heard it used as a measurement. What does it measure?
    Others will have to confer, but I believe "stone" is exclusively used in BE-speaking countries.

    1 stone = approx. 14 US pounds (1 pound = 16 oz.)

    I hear stone used quite often in many of the BBC programs I watch and/or listen to.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    GenJen54 said:
    Others will have to confer, but I believe "stone" is exclusively used in BE-speaking countries.

    1 stone = approx. 14 US pounds (1 pound = 16 oz.)

    I hear stone used quite often in many of the BBC programs I watch and/or listen to.
    Quite correct Jen. If an American says they weigh say 200 pounds you will see all the Brits stood round with pained expressions as they try to divide 200 by 14 to work out what this means.

    Elroy - dropping the s is not standard BE either (I wouldn't do it) but is found in some regional accents, at least this side of the pond.
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I was puzzled when I read this at first. Then I realised that the question does not arise for me because I wouldn't write those units in full in that context. I may not get the abbreviations completely right (according to the international standards), of course, but I would write:
    ... 0.01kg ...
    ... 1.1in ...
    or more likely these days,
    ... 1.1cm ...
    ... -0.1deg ...

    It seems somehow wrong to be writing the units in full after an apparently precise scientific measurement (such as 0.01).

    Timpeac's comments on BE plurals apply to me as well. There is one strange quirk when talking about measurements in feet and inches.

    How long is that table? Six feet (occasionally six foot).
    How long is that table? Five foot four (meaning 5ft 4in).
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    sus4 said:
    Hi,

    Thank you all for helping me! It's intriguing to know that decimals below 1 are plural. I'll keep this rule in mind.
    Any numerical quantity besides 1 takes a plural noun. This makes sense if you think that, for example, 0.01 kg can be expressed as ten grammes.

    Now, if you use the symbol for the unit, instead of writing the word in full, you do not add an s: 2 kg, 3 kg, etc. (but pronounced "two kilogrammes, three kilogrammes, etc.) For more information, see this page.
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    panjandrum said:
    Timpeac's comments on BE plurals apply to me as well. There is one strange quirk when talking about measurements in feet and inches.

    How long is that table? Six feet (occasionally six foot).
    How long is that table? Five foot four (meaning 5ft 4in).
    When we talk about people's height I bet we never say feet in UK English. What self respecting man who is 180 cm tall would ever say he was six feet tall, it'd be foot every time! We talk about six footers.

    I say this as someone who doesn't use imperial measurements at all bar three exceptions: UK distances - the signs here are still in miles even though we have been supposedly going metric since I was in primary school), beer in the pub (still in pints) and babies' birthweights.

    At work you can tell when people have properly settled here - they come in to show off their new baby and proudly say s/he was 7 pounds six ounces.
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    cirrus said:
    What self respecting man who is 180 cm tall would ever say he was six feet tall, it'd be foot every time! We talk about six footers.
    Of course we do:eek: I was thinking of tables, carpets, rooms and such like - not people.
    (Speaking as someone whose exercise books at primary school all had the relationships between feet, inches, yards, chains, rods, poles, perches, furlongs... set out in tables on the back.)
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    panjandrum said:
    Of course we do:eek: I was thinking of tables, carpets, rooms and such like - not people.
    (Speaking as someone whose exercise books at primary school all had the relationships between feet, inches, yards, chains, rods, poles, perches, furlongs... set out in tables on the back.)
    As a forty year old I find these words just make me giggle. What does my head in is that fact that people still use them. It drives me up the wall getting paint in litres only to find the tin says it will cover x square feet or worse, buying x metres of wood which is 2 inches by 1 inch... aargh!!
     
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