fraction/ decimal number + noun (singular or plural?)

HSS

Senior Member
Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
Is it true you use a singular noun with a fraction, such as 1/4, and a plural noun with a decimal number, such as 0.25, if the number is below 1 and above 0?

[1] I ate a 1/4 nectarine.
[2] I ate 0.25 nectarines.

Is this always applicable?
 
  • Oeco

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I don't think this is true. I need to put these sentences in words:


    1. I ate a quarter of a nectarine.
    2. I ate twenty-five tenths of a nectarine.

    I think I know what you mean, but I don't think it works the way you are suggesting. If you said, "I ate 2.25 (two and a quarter) nectarines" that would make more sense.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I don't think this is true. I need to put these sentences in words:


    1. I ate a quarter of a nectarine.
    2. I ate twenty-five tenths of a nectarine.

    I think I know what you mean, but I don't think it works the way you are suggesting. If you said, "I ate 2.25 (two and a quarter) nectarines" that would make more sense.
    So you're saying you don't express it with 0.25 or 1/4, Oeco?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    AmE speakers might read decimals differently from other English speakers. Have a look at this thread:
    How to read this number 2/211

    If I saw 0.25, I would say '(nought/oh/zero) point two five' (rather than twenty-five hundredths). And yes, we'd use the plural with decimals - point two five nectarines unless I say point two five of a nectarine​.

    Having said that, I think in an natural situation about consumption, I would only say 'a quarter'.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Maybe I should have used different numbers. Yes, for 1/4 or 0.25, we'd be most likely say a quarter instead.

    But for something like 3/5 or 0.6, and particularly in mathematical calculation, you would use just the fraction or the decimal number.

    Decimals with plurals are used at least by someone or some people ... Would it be one of the AE-BE differences?

    [3] They found a 3/5 apple left on the plate. Someone ate 30% of it later. How much is left now?
    [4] They found 0.6 apples (a 0.6 apple) on the plate. Someone ate 30% of them (it) left now?
     
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    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    If you're talking conversationally about parts of apples or oranges or general household items, English speakers would use fractions rather than decimals, so we say things like 'I gave him a third of the loaf of bread'. It sounds unusual to express that in percentage terms ('I used up 20% of the bottle of sauce'), but perhaps marginally less strange than to use decimals ('I used up 0.2 bottle of sauce').

    The exception is when you have maths problem sums, when things are not expected to sound natural anyway!

    I can imagine decimals when you express weights, lengths, volumes involving some unit of measurement, eg 'Pour in 1.6 litres of milk.'
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Yes, in math problems!:) Whether or not it would sound natural in conversation, would "(0<) fraction (<1) + plural" be used in AE? I guess, Nat, you speak BE. So maybe it is true in BE. But how about in AE?
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I found this interesting swap of questions and answers here:
    I would say
    0.5 apple (half an apple, five tenths of an apple)
    0.9 apple
    1.1 apples
    1.5 apples
    In other words, anything greater than one can be taken as plural, as well as zero and possibly negative numbers. But in many cases the plural might be used with decimals smaller than 1; I have no strong objection to "0.5 meters".
    With a few exceptions, plurals of spelled-out units are formed conventionally. Use the singular form with numbers less than or equal to 1, and use the plural form with numbers greater than 1. (In spoken English, however, decimal numbers take the plural form even if they are less than 1, e.g. "a quarter second" but "zero point two five seconds.")
    It looks as though it's not a AE-BE difference, but it could be a conversation-not-conversation one.
     

    Oeco

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Yes, in math problems!:) Whether or not it would sound natural in conversation, would "(0<) fraction (<1) + plural" be used in AE? I guess, Nat, you speak BE. So maybe it is true in BE. But how about in AE?
    Now that Keith has put it 0.73 meters (metres) I think the plural would be called for in AmE as well. We would say "73 one hundreths of a meter" but "point 73 meters." Confusing? Yes.
     

    morzh

    Banned
    USA
    Russian
    I don't think anyone, except for the specific purpose of making it sound funny, would use "0.25 nectarine", or "25% of nectarine".
    It is usually "a quarter of".

    Then, if it is about an electric current, or financial assets, either one is used.

    "One quarter of the money goes towards education".
    "25% of the money goes...."
    "One fourth of the money goes...."
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    This results in 1 metre but 1.0 metres. The former is not a decimal, but simply an integer. They would be abbreviated as 1 m and 1.0 m, respectively.
    Oh, so you say "1.0 metres [or, meters]"! I've never known that. You don't say "1.0 metre [or, meter]," do you?
     

    basquesteve

    New Member
    english
    If its one you say a metre The problem is English speakers hate metrication is all feet inches yards furlongs chains miles pints gallons the problem is UK /USA measurements in the same named units are different
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    A: "Measure those rods and call out the lengths; I'll write them down."

    B(i): "One point oh seven metres (1.07)... one point one, one metres (1.11)... point nine, seven metres (0.97) and one point zero metres." - if you are using decimal points, you are being accurate and use the plural.

    B(ii): "One point oh seven metres (1.07)... [...] and one metre exactly" - if you abandon the decimal system, it is in the singular.

    B(iii)."One and a quarter inch... seven-eighths of an inch... half an inch, one inch." The plural is optional with inches for more than one; the singular is for one and less than one." target="WRdict">... one and three-eighths inch... seven-eighths of an inch... half an inch, one inch." The plural is optional with inches for more than one; the singular is for one and less than one.
     
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    basquesteve

    New Member
    english
    )."One and a quarter inch... one and three-eighths inch..What happened to the "es", the alternative is one and a quarter / three-eighths of an inch
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    The more I think about it, the more I realise that I don't usually pluralise any measurement when speaking in the real world unless emphasising it:
    A: "I'm going to get 30 metre of twin-core cable. While I'm gone, take two inch off that plank."
    B: "But that'll make it less than six foot!"
    A: "It's OK, as long as it's more than 1.8 metre."

    A: "We need new curtains. How big's the window?"
    B: "Ninety-six inch."
    A: "Exactly?"
    B: "Just a minute, [measures] Oh! look at that! One hundred and eight inches! It must have grown!"

    I think it comes from spending time with tradesmen, my father who was an engineer and a friend who was a woodwork teacher. They were all used to using measurements as adjectives - a two inch nail; a 20 centimetre wide board, etc.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Twenty years in the Midlands, 20 years in the North, 23 years in the South East. In all of those places, particularly when buying wood, I heard/hear inch, foot, metre.
     

    basquesteve

    New Member
    english
    I'm Gloucestershire borne Gloucestershire bred strong in the arm thick in the head and we "talked plurals down these parts" (is that English? I havent been in the UK for 20 years) English as a foreign tongue must be impossible
     
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    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    My impression is that using the singular is common or even normal for imperial units ('two pound of mince', 'he's not quite six foot'), but less for metric. But then what do I know!
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    For me, in BE, all decimals (whether more or less than 1) are followed by a plural noun.

    0.73 metres
    0.5 inches
    0.6 apples
    (if you must)
    This results in 1 metre but 1.0 metres. The former is not a decimal, but simply an integer. They would be abbreviated as 1 m and 1.0 m, respectively.
    Oh, so you say "1.0 metres [or, meters]"! I've never known that. You don't say "1.0 metre [or, meter]," do you?
    It's because the decimal point i used. The format is ABC.WXYZ units where units are things like metres, grams volts etc. Even in it is a value of less than 1, it uses plural units - unless abbreviated, where the abbreviation does not change. Thus 0.7 metres, 1 metre, 1.0 metres, 1.7 metres.

    Some of the discussion/confusion is from examples where things like apples and melons are used - these are everyday words, rather than units, so they are not always treated the same way. I personally have never said or heard (outside this kind of language discussion :eek:) 0.6 apple(s) or 0.6 of an apple etc.
     

    siloxr

    Member
    English (USA-Southeast)
    Oh, so you say "1.0 metres [or, meters]"! I've never known that. You don't say "1.0 metre [or, meter]," do you?
    I wouldn't. I would use the plural of the unit. The way I understand the rule is that if the number is not exactly one, you do not use the singular, at least when expressing the number with a digit.

    Another way of thinking about why you use plurals with any number that is not exactly one is to remember that "1.0" is a shorthand notation for "one and zero tenths". While we might generally read it as "one point zero", the "point zero" portion still refers to "tenths" which is plural in a case like this (as are hundredths, thousandths, etc.). Likewise, when one speaks of 0.8 of something, they are talking about "eight tenths" of that thing.

    Saying all of the above means I would be remiss if I did not point out that "1", "1.", and "1.0" can mean very different things depending on the context. The differences between the meanings are a result of a property called significant figures (more reading on these at: http://www.usca.edu/chemistry/genchem/sigfig.htm). This idea is mostly of use in more technical fields where the precision of measurements is important.

    But in short, when you say there is 1.0 of something, you're not saying that there's exactly one of that thing, you're saying that there is anywhere between 0.95 and 1.05 of that thing.
     
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