singular vs plural: "a fifteen degree angle" vs "47 degrees Latitude"

loviii

Senior Member
russian
Greetings!

merriam-webster.com:
a fifteen degree angle
47 degrees Latitude


Make sentences from these phrases:
(1) It's a fifteen degree angle.
(2) It's 47 degrees Latitude.

Why are there different forms of the noun "degree": singular in (1) and plural in (2)?

Thanks!
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In “It’s a 15-degree angle”, the hyphenated word is a compound adjective used attributively (before the word it modifies), so it uses a singular noun.

    I don’t think your sentence (2) makes sense, but in, for example, “Seattle is at 47 degrees latitude”, the number of degrees is part of the complement.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    In (1), fifteen-degree is an adjective phrase that modifies the noun "angle." Adjectives do not change form in English when they modify plural nouns, though they do in many other languages (including Russian).

    In (2), "degrees" is simply a plural quantity. I would have written "it's 47 degrees of latitude" or "its latitude is 47 degrees," or perhaps something else depending on the context, but that doesn't change the concept.

    Cross-posted.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    In any case, "It's 47 degrees latitude" is wrong. Although it is not idiomatic, it would have to be "It's at 47 degrees latitude". Where "it" is a place.
     

    loviii

    Senior Member
    russian
    “Seattle is at 47 degrees latitude”, the number of degrees is part of the complement.
    In (2), "degrees" is simply a plural quantity.
    It's at 47 degrees latitude
    (1) is familiar to me because earlier I encountered similar collocations (e.g. two car garage, three family house). But I'm very surprised at (2) and still can't understand it. Maybe to better my understanding, I need to consider the next sentences:
    (3) Seattle is at 47 degrees latitude.
    (4) Seattle is at 47 degree latitude.
    Can I use (4) and if not, then why?
    What's the difference between (3) and (4)?

    Thanks!
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    What's the difference between (3) and (4)?
    4 is wrong. A latitude is not an angle, it's a notional line parallel to the equator which is defined by an angle. A latitude of 47 degrees is defined by a 47-degree angle between the plane of the equator and a line drawn from the centre of the earth to a point on the planet's surface.

    Your confusion can be resolved by using an idiomatic statement: Seattle is at a latitude of 47.6 degrees north or Seattle's latitude is 47.6 degrees north.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Perhaps temperature makes the distinction clearer :)
    The temperature is 47 degrees.:tick:
    It is 47 degrees temperature. :cross:
    There was a ten-degree rise in temperature.
     
    I knew that there was a retention of the singular for the measurement of "foot", but I didn't know that it applied to other measurements too.

    As I understand it, we tend to use "foot" as the plural, as well as the singular, in linear measurement, because of the genitive plural of "fot" in Old English,which was "fota". A length "of X feet" in Old English would be "X fota", which became abbreviated to "X foot".
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Tricosane melts at 47 degrees temperature. :cross:
    Tricosane melts at 48 to 54 degrees Centigrade (or Celsius) or 118 to 129 degrees Fahrenheit. :tick:
    The temperature at which Tricosane melts is 4 8 to 54 degrees Centigrade (or Celsius) or 118 to 129 degrees Fahrenheit. :tick:
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Degrees are a bad example to explain this. What governs whether a noun of this kind is normally singular or plural depends on whether it’s being used attributively (before what it describes) or predicatively (after what it describes), as I mentioned in #2.

    That seven-foot-tall man is my boss / My boss is seven feet tall
    It was a 200-mile drive / The drive was 200 miles
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Degrees are a bad example to explain this. What governs whether a noun of this kind is normally singular or plural depends on whether it’s being used attributively (before what it describes) or predicatively (after what it describes), as I mentioned in #2.
    ... and illustrated with new examples in #7
    If "47 degrees latitude" is correct,
    It is not correct in the sentence "It is 47 degrees latitude" nor in the sentence "It is 47 degrees temperature".
     

    loviii

    Senior Member
    russian
    Seattle is at 47 degrees latitude. - Is "latitude" an appositive to "47 degrees"?

    Thanks!

    P.S.:
    Tricosane melts at 47 degrees temperature. :cross:
    Tricosane melts at 48 to 54 degrees [...]. :tick:
    thegoodscentscompany.com: Melting Point: 47.00 to 48.00 °C.

    It means melting point of tricosane is 47 to 48°C depending on the source you found. That is this is a fixed number which is equal to 47°C + tenths of a degree. Variation in 6 degrees (54 - 48 = 6) is nonsense.
     
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