1. ## 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:
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

2. ## 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. ## 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. ## 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. ## 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!

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