Bacteria colonies can double their number (numbers) ...

cheshire

Senior Member
Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
Can we use the singular form "number" in this sentence "Under the right conditions, bacteria colonies can double their numbers every twenty minutes."?​
 
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Can we use the singular form "number" in this sentence "Under the right conditions, bacteria colonies can double their numbers every twenty minutes."?​
    No, I think it has to be numbers, and bacterial colonies run to large numbers.

    You need to beware of the expression their number Cheshire, because it can easily mean their turn - their number on the wheel of fortune. He saw the arrow coming towards him and knew that his number was up.

    You could say they double in number or double their numbers.
     

    cheshire

    Senior Member
    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    Should I see "double their numbers" as a fixed expression? Since I can't see the logic that distinguishes "The number of population increased in Tokyo." from "double their numbers."
     

    konungursvia

    Banned
    Canada (English)
    It is only "double their numbers" because the subject of the clause, bacterial colonies, is plural, each colony having its own number or count.
     

    cheshire

    Senior Member
    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    Thanks konungursvia!
    Do you confirm if the following understanding is right?

    Canada's number
    USA's number
    Mexico's number

    ---> Canada, USA, and Mexico's numbers
     

    konungursvia

    Banned
    Canada (English)
    Cheshire, you are correct, (Canada's, America's and Mexico's numbers) and clearly you understand perfectly, although as Thomas illustrates above, there are cases in which people sometimes use the plural for no clear reason, in expressions like "ever larger numbers" and "increasing numbers." This is probably because the number changes to other even larger numbers.
     
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