Times when not to pluralize more than one, if so, why?

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truepurple

Senior Member
English-US
- In all of the cathedral's 800-year history
You need a plural s here in year! What justification do you have for not making year plural? How is it different than "I arrived in 60 minute"?

Would you also say "a 10-years old child" and a "50-storeys building"?
Story might not be a good example, for some reason I never seem to see the use of the word for building height pluralized.

But I think I might see your point about "a 10-years old child", it does look slightly odd, but I can't say why. Maybe because there is a singular "a" right before it for the child. Still, that should be right, or if it's wrong, please explain to me how, and why. Especially, what purpose singular serves for talking about more than one of something, how does it better lead to understanding?
 
  • holymoses

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - UK
    It's because in those examples '800 year' and 'ten year old' and 'fifty story' etc are adjectives.

    In English, adjectives are always singular. They don't have a plural form.
     

    holymoses

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - UK
    It's just a rule. Adjectives are always the same in English, regardless of singular/plural.

    The red apple.
    The red apples.

    It's never 'the reds apples.'
     

    holymoses

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - UK
    Yes, but as I said, in your examples, '800 year', '50 story' and 'ten year old' are being used as adjectives, and adjectives are always singular.

    A five hundred page book
    A one parent family
    Four wheel drive

    The book has five hundred pages. But when you say 'a five hundred page book', 'five hundred page' is being used as an adjective to describe the book, and adjectives are always singular, so that's why there is no s.

    It's the same with the other examples.
     

    truepurple

    Senior Member
    English-US
    If it's not clear already HolyMoses, I get what you are saying. But do you see this serving any purpose that helps contribute to meaning and understanding? Or is it a rule, for rules' sake?
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    It doesn't affect the meaning, and I don't consider it to be a rule at all. As I said, it's simply the way it's done.
     

    truepurple

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I am talking to RM1, who said he didn't consider it a rule at all, if it isn't a rule, than there would be no reason to mark it "wrong". Unless you believe its wrong to not be like everyone else.
     
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    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I am talking to RM1, who said he didn't consider it a rule at all, if it isn't a rule, than there would be no reason to mark it "wrong". Unless you believe its wrong to not be like everyone else.
    When a teacher is responsible for grading tests it must be based on the rules and conventions that are in force at the time. I think the part that makes this difficult to discuss is that this is a basic convention of English that is usually picked up by osmosis, if nothing else, by native speakers.

    "The ladder is seven feet tall" but it is a "seven-foot ladder". We don't say it is a seven-feet ladder. To most native speakers the sound of the second option would grate on their ears.
    "Don't jump! It's a fifty-foot drop to the pavement from here. You'll die!" We instinctively avoid saying "It's a fifty-feet drop to the pavement..."
    "This is a five-pound sack of flour." It's not "a five-pounds sack of flour."
    "I want a 60-inch television", not "a 60-inches television."
    "I just finished a 12-hour shift and I'm exhausted", not "a 12-hours shift".
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    I am talking to RM1, who said he didn't consider it a rule at all, if it isn't a rule, than there would be no reason to mark it "wrong". Unless you believe its wrong to not be like everyone else.
    It's like the question of whether to write believe as "beleive" or to ask "Where are the bathroom?" If you decide to be different and pluralize your adjectives -- "grumpys olds men," "my truck has 4-wheels drive" -- people will still understand you, it's just that you will sound ridiculous. That's why we teach it as a rule, so that children and learners don't accidentally sound ridiculous. But these things are only "rules" in something like the way the law of gravity is a "law." Newton didn't decide to impose gravity on people; his purpose was simply to describe what actually happens, so that people could make accurate predictions about the future.
     

    truepurple

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Is convention the same as rule to you James? Is this convention in the rule book?

    If enough people use literally as it's opposite meaning, hyperbole, does it become a convention in the rule book?

    Newton didn't decide to impose gravity on people;
    Please don't compare language with physics. That is a absolutely dreadful comparison.

    Anyway, so it sounds like this does not serve a purpose, just that people aren't used to it. Alright, thanks.
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    It's a pretty fair comparison, in light of your complaint that this rule about adjectives is just "a rule for rules' sake." I mean that you misunderstand this sense of "rule" in rather the same sense that somebody who claimed that the law of gravity is "overlegislation" misapprehends that sense of "law."

    Oh, and "all right" is two words. ;)
     

    truepurple

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Humans decide language, especially something like this. I hear humans have free will and intelligence that they employ for such things. Believe it or not, no one can decide gravity.


    "all right" is two words.
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/alright?s=t

    Just another abbreviation like isn't etc., which I think are old enough to be considered "conventions". Which means rules, right?
     
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    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Is convention the same as rule to you James? Is this convention in the rule book?

    If enough people use literally as it's opposite meaning, hyperbole, does it become a convention in the rule book?

    ("It's" means "it is" or "it has". "...as its opposite meaning..." is the correct form.)

    It is a general "rule" or convention, as in "rule of thumb". As Glenfarclas said, these describe the way the language is used. To quote one grammar site:

    http://www.grammar-quizzes.com/adj_numbermodifiers.html
    When a number and noun are combined to modify a noun, no plural form is used in the modifier. Modifiers rarely take the plural form.
    Or, as another site puts it:

    GrammarBook.com says:
    April 23, 2015, at 2:53 pm
    A quantity of weight or measure is singular when considered as a unit.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Humans decide language, especially something like this. I hear humans have free will and intelligence that they employ for such things. Believe it or not, no one can decide gravity.
    Individual humans do not decide for all humans what is commonly accepted language. It is group-think, mutual consent, a social contract. So it is not as simple as "individual free will". It is a consensus that is constantly shifting. Within that consensus are different "registers" of consensus, often called "formal", "informal", "jargon", "slang", "dialect" and other such things. It is as uncontrollable at the individual level as you deciding what will and will not "go viral".

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/alright?s=t

    Just another abbreviation like isn't etc., which I think are old enough to be considered "conventions". Which means rules, right?
    From the same site you referenced:

    The form alright, though very common, is still considered by many people to be wrong or less acceptable than all right.
    English is full of exceptions and there is no single authoritative body that determines what English is, so "rules" moves us into an arena that doesn't really apply to English, in many cases. However, there are conventions that are accepted by a few, by some, and by almost everyone. When you hit the ones that are generally accepted by all native speakers you've reached the virtual level of "rule". :)
     
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    truepurple

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Individual humans do not decide for all humans what is commonly accepted language. It is group-think, mutual consent, a social contract. So it is not as simple as "individual free will". It is a consensus that is constantly shifting. Within that consensus are different "registers" of consensus, often called "formal", "informal", "slang" and other such things.
    That has never happened with gravity. Please take my word on this.

    English is full of exceptions and there is no single authoritative body that determines what English is, so "rules" moves us into an arena that doesn't really apply to English, in many cases. However, there are conventions that are accepted by a few, by some, and by almost everyone.
    People say things like "wrong" or "right" here authoritatively, like there is only one answer. And mods here even enforce various language conventions, like capitalizing English, even though I don't want to. For that matter a English teacher certainly acts like there is a rule book. All of the above acts like there is a rule book. So where does the issue of singularizing multiple adjectives fall in this spectrum?
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Singularizing multiple adjectives (in the case of numbers used as adjectives before nouns) falls into the category of general rule because those who analyze language and those who speak the language generally follow it as a rule.

    You have to keep in mind that people coming to this forum are interested in what is considered acceptable and what isn't. If that's not your interest this is probably not the place for you. Translators and language learners need to know what the "rules" are. If they choose to break them, for whatever reason, they also want to know what impression that leaves with the listener.

    I can say "me go now home" and be understood, but language is not just about putting words together well enough to be understood. It is a signal to others of your background, your level of education, your mastery of the language, your sensitivity to nuances in expression. Language is a cultural and social identifier. Do you really think that people wouldn't look at you a little differently if you said "I just buyed a 27-inches monitor for computer my"?

    If you never want to apply for a job where your application will be reviewed for "correct" English, or you plan to use words in a way that is unique to you and you have no concern for convention or rules, that's definitely one choice. It's not the function or purpose of this particular forum or site, however.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    You need a plural s here in year! What justification do you have for not making year plural?
    In fact there is a justification for not putting an 's' on attributive nouns. (Note that I didn't say 'for not making them plural'.) It's this ...

    As others have said, English adjectives are invariable. It's not that they're singular, it's that they're numberless. If you want to see that from the viewpoint of languages that do have separate singular and plural forms of adjectives, then the invariable English adjective is both singular and plural (just as, for example, the noun "sheep" is both singular and plural).

    When you use a noun attributively, it becomes, in effect, an adjective; so it follows the normal form of an adjective: it's numberless (or, if you like, it can be either singular or plural, according to the number of the noun it's qualifying). That's not a rule, in the authoritative sense; it's an explanation of an existing feature of the language. Nobody invented it; it evolved naturally. If you'd prefer English adjectives (and nouns used as adjectives) to have endings showing number, you could have had great fun living 10 to 15 centuries ago, when Old English adjectives had endings indicating five grammatical cases, three genders, and singular/plural (30 combinations in all). Over time, those endings have disappeared. Nobody declared a rule to outlaw them.

    Story might not be a good example, for some reason I never seem to see the use of the word for building height pluralized.

    But I think I might see your point about "a 10-years old child", it does look slightly odd, but I can't say why.
    (My bold)

    If you can't say why in either of those cases, what basis to you have for challenging other cases? Perhaps you also can't say why it's "a passenger train", not "a passengers train" — "a cigar box", not "a cigars box" — "a bus stop", not a "buses stop"? — or in American football, a "20-yard line", not a "20-yards line". Those aren't exceptions; they're the norm, and there are thousands of other examples. (As for why, I've explained that above.)

    Do you put an 's' on any of the attributive nouns above? If not, are you bowing to a useless rule, or just using normal English? If you accept the form without 's' in those examples, then what justification do you have for not accepting that norm in other cases, such as "an 800-year history"?

    As to contributing to meaning and understanding (your #8), that's a question that might be asked if you were creating a new language from scratch. But if you suddenly start using forms that are different from generally accepted forms in an existing language, then that probably will hinder understanding. People do that all the time, of course (because not everyone has a perfect knowledge of language, even their own); but they don't usually set off on a crusade to overthrow the accepted forms, or to dub them "useless rules".

    if it isn't a rule, than there would be no reason to mark it "wrong". Unless you believe its wrong to not be like everyone else.
    If you believe that every feature of a language has to be subject to a rule defining right and wrong, please tell us who the rulemaker(s) is/are for the English language. If you can't, then I don't see how you can talk about rules. If, by "rule", you mean a directive issued by some authority that must be obeyed (and that makes things right or wrong in absolute terms), then English has no rules — because there is no such central authority. What we do have are generally accepted norms, as described by Glen in #15 and #17 and by James in #14 and #20.

    Ws
    [Edit: Missing word]
     
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    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    That has never happened with gravity. Please take my word on this.
    The point of the comparison is that "Newton's Law" doesn't control gravity like a law passed by government controls your behavior. It describes how gravity seems to behave in nature. In the same way, "grammar rules" describe how real people use the language. The "rule" doesn't say that people must speak in a certain way, however if you don't speak in that way, you will be speaking differently than the majority of real people. If you drop an apple, it will fall to the ground not because Newton said so, but because that's how gravity works. If you say "reds apples", people will think you are strange, not because you didn't follow a "rule," but because you said something that they wouldn't say.
     
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