a a-thousand-foot wire

cheshire

Senior Member
Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
He crossed Niagara Falls on a thousand-foot wire in ten minutes.
Does this "a" belong to "a wire" or "a thousand foot"?

Also, can we write "...on a a-thousand-foot wire..." or "...on a one-thousand-foot wire..."?
 
  • JamesM

    Senior Member
    No. The hyphen is incorrect.

    A thousand-foot wire, not a-thousand-foot wire.
    A two-mile stretch of road, not a-two-mile stretch of road.
    A three-foot drop, not a-three-foot drop.

    (Actually, I'm not sure you need the hyphen between the number and the unit of measure, although I find many examples of it when I Google. Hyphens are a bother. :) )

    I'm absolutely positive that it should not be "a-thousand-foot", though, and I rarely say I'm absolutely positive about anything these days.
     

    samanthalee

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, English - [Singapore]
    No. The hyphen is incorrect.

    I'm absolutely positive that it should not be "a-thousand-foot", though, and I rarely say I'm absolutely positive about anything these days.
    I'm really puzzled. If we can say "a one-thousand-foot wire", why can't we say "an a-thousand-foot wire"? I mean "one thousand" = "a thousand", isn't it?
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    No. The hyphen is incorrect.

    A thousand-foot wire, not a-thousand-foot wire.
    A two-mile stretch of road, not a-two-mile stretch of road.
    A three-foot drop, not a-three-foot drop.

    (Actually, I'm not sure you need the hyphen between the number and the unit of measure, although I find many examples of it when I Google. Hyphens are a bother. :) )

    I'm absolutely positive that it should not be "a-thousand-foot", though, and I rarely say I'm absolutely positive about anything these days.
    I always see this structure with the hyphen between the number and the unit of measure, perhaps to make it clear it's an adjective form. Also;
    A twenty-year-old man.
     

    Budfemme

    New Member
    USA English
    As a native English speaker, I just had to add to this thread even though it has been a couple of years since it was made.

    We would never write or say 'an a thousand people' but 'a thousand people', why would anyone believe 'an a-thousand-foot tree' to be grammatically correct? 'A' and 'an' are both articles, and we don't need two articles, do we?

    Suffice it to say that we don't need another article when 'a' replaces 'one' as used with number words such as hundred, thousand and million.

    If someone else, native speaker or not, knows a helpful rule, please jump in!
    Thank you:)
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    As a native English speaker, I just had to add to this thread even though it has been a couple of years since it was made.

    We would never write or say 'an a thousand people' but 'a thousand people', why would anyone believe 'an a-thousand-foot tree' to be grammatically correct? 'A' and 'an' are both articles, and we don't need two articles, do we?

    Suffice it to say that we don't need another article when 'a' replaces 'one' as used with number words such as hundred, thousand and million.

    If someone else, native speaker or not, knows a helpful rule, please jump in!
    Thank you:)
    What is happening in "a thousand-foot climb" or "a one-thousand-foot climb," it seems to me, is that the indefinite article is a determiner for the head of the noun phrase "a (one-)thousand-foot climb." The adjectives "thousand-foot" and "one-thousand-foot" could be dropped leaving "a climb." Compare "the one-thousand-foot climb" and "the climb"--the definite article used because a reference had been made to the head of the phrase earlier.

    In "He climbed a thousand feet," on the other hand, the indefinite article serves a different function, that given in the entry a in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

    4 —used as a function word with nouns to form adverbial phrases of quantity, amount, or degree <felt a bit tired>
    It seems to me that "a thousand feet" is an adverbial phrase in "He climbed a thousand feet," but that "the thousand feet" is not an adverbial phrase in "He climbed the thousand feet," but is instead a substitute for a noun phrase, something like "the distance (or height) previously mentioned." I'd be happy to hear alternative opinions, however.
     
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    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I'm really puzzled. If we can say "a one-thousand-foot wire", why can't we say "an a-thousand-foot wire"? I mean "one thousand" = "a thousand", isn't it?
    The word a and one are often interchangeable but not in numbers - the "one" is to distinguish it from two or three etc.
    A one-thousand-foot climb ...
    A two-thousand-foot climb ...

    A three-thousand-one-hundred-foot climb ...)
    (Not A three-thousand-a-hundred-foot climb ...)

    Then there's the awkwardness factor!
     
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