Results 1 to 5 of 5
  1. #1
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Academic
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Iraq
      • Current Location:
      • Germany
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    1,198
    Post Thanks / Like

    Number confusion

    Number confusion
    The existence of number reflects human need to count. Counting has never gone beyond certain boundaries depending upon human needs. In some cultures for example there is no need to count beyond three or four. The existence of words like: "some, a few, several, a couple of, a lot of" show this tendency even in English. In addition, when counting, "one" is taken as singular but anything starting from "two" is plural. Strangely, there is no difference between two and a hundred because both are plural no matter the big difference in number. In some langauges there are different kinds of plurals. A plural form referring to a small group and another one to a bigger one. Sometimes plural begins from three i.e after dual which is two. This might explain why we easily get confused when we count beyond a million. For example the word "billion" in English is not the same "biilion" in other European languages. It means one thousand million for which the Germans for example have the word "Milliard". Number together with mathematical operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division became more important when business developed and became part of everyday life.

    This confusion is still persistent. For example:
    The family is (are) here.
    My trousers are old (although one pair)
    "A few friends" is more than "few friends"
    "A little of "coffee is more than "little" coffee
    The police are here (in other languages the police is here)
    Words like information, weather and advice cannot be counted.
    The United States is (not are)
    Mathematics is (not are)
    The news is (not are)

    The French seem to have some problems with numbers shown in their complicated and long way of saying for example "ninety" "quatre vingt-dix" literally "four twenties and ten". In English all of a sudden we have eleven and twelve and the teens start from thirteen whereas from twenty on the system remains the same. The orthography is even more complicated. In the word "four" there is a "u" but not in "forty". The word "fifty" is written differently from "five".

    Some words can be countable and uncountable at the same time:
    Business: we do business. (uncountable)
    These businesses are important (countable)
    In business people use the word figure instead of number. The sales figues have increased.

    When words are uncountable we need to use quantities to make them countable:
    a bag of, a drop of, a pair of, a glass of, a cup of, a dozen,....

    To make this confusion even worse we have different plural forms:
    Car ...................cars
    Man ..................men, woman ...... women
    Child..................children
    wife...................wives
    Tomato..............Tomatoes
    goose................geese, foot....feet
    Oasis..................Oases
    Mother-in-law......Mothers-in-law

    I would welcome some contributions.
    Regards
    Jamshid
    Last edited by Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim; 20-Sep-2005 at 09:14.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    28
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Number confusion

    It's funny that I was thinking about the issue today. Specially talking about proteins and how they can be countable and uncountable actually meaning different things.

    1) There aren't many proteins
    vs
    2) There isn't much protein

    1) means that there aren't many different kinds of proteins. Let's say only protein A and B, but you can have a ton of each.
    2) means that the total amount of protein (regardless of variety) is low, i.e. you can have proteins A through Z but the total amount is little.

    What about 1 spoonfull or 2 spoonfulls? or spoons-full?

    On the other hand I was thinking about plural forms of different drinks. Maragaritas are easy, but what about Tequila Sunrise or Sex on the Beach?
    Cheers
    Ed

  3. #3
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Academic
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Iraq
      • Current Location:
      • Germany
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    1,198
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Number confusion

    Hi Ed nice to "meet" you again.
    Yes, people with the exception of a few have always complained about number crunching. Agreement in English grammar has also been a pitfall for mistakes and confusion. The examples you gave are intersting but what about proper nouns. As you know those ending in "y" like Harry,Mary and Betty. Is the "y" kept in plural? Common nouns are clear:
    baby ....babies
    boy.......boys

    Regards
    Jamshid

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Japan
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    44,174
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Number confusion

    Most 'uncountable'\nouns can be used in the plural in some contexts. i think it is more helpful to think of countable/uncountable as characteristics rather than categories.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    28
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Number confusion

    Nice "meeting" you again too Jamshid! I've been too busy with school lately, but I can't stay away for too long
    Well I would have naturally wirtten Maries and Harries. I was thinking about Maries, when writing about the drinks; 2 Bloody Maries, please!
    Last edited by edinohio; 20-Sep-2005 at 08:58.

Similar Threads

  1. I Have Some Confusion
    By sweetaish in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 04-Aug-2005, 04:58
  2. number display
    By Itasan in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 13-Jul-2005, 02:22
  3. Numbers.
    By Latoof in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 20-Dec-2004, 08:55
  4. Number is infinite
    By NewHope in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 16-Nov-2004, 14:56
  5. Question of 'amount of' & 'number of'
    By Anonymous in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 05-Jun-2003, 17:59

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •