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If we are using both singular and plural in the same sentence, how do we say or write it?

For example, which one is correct?

  1. one to two minutes
  2. one to two minute(s)
  3. one minute to two minutes
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3  
"one to two minutes" -- however, try asking such Qs on ell.stackexchange.com rather than ELU. –  Kris Apr 30 '13 at 8:24
    
@Kris: is it correct to form the noun according the the latest number, eg. "one to two eggs" and "two or one egg"? –  Truong Ha Apr 30 '13 at 10:59
2  
@Truong Ha: It's weird to say "two or one egg": it'd have to be "two eggs or one". You could say "one egg or two" instead of "one to two eggs", though. –  user21497 Apr 30 '13 at 12:48
2  
Think of it this way: "How many minutes?" The answer could even be "One minute." Here, the reference in the question is to the quantum of time, always plural (in minutes) when the quantum is unknown. Likewise in a statement, the quantum is expressed in the plural by default, except where the quantum is definitely known to be singular. " One minute, half a minute, two minutes, but one or two minutes ." HTH. –  Kris Apr 30 '13 at 13:00
1  
@Kris Nope, that’s completely wrong: you need to use inches in the plural. –  tchrist May 2 '13 at 13:26
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1 Answer 1

The plural is used to designate any non-singular quantity, including indefinite amounts.

E.g.

  1. negative: I have negative two dollars.
  2. zero: I have zero dollars
  3. singular: I have one dollar
  4. plural: I have four dollars. I have two and a half dollars.
  5. indefinite: I have several dollars.

You may also express amounts in English using the partitive genitive (e.g. a quarter of a donut), in which case the whole and not the parts determine the number. So I may have a "quarter of a dollar" or "an eighth of two dollars."

Also, collectives often take a singular verb, especially in American English.

both "The Government is a governing body" and "The Government are a governing body" are correct, although the first is more common in America and the second in the UK.

All that to say that while you would always use the plural "dollars" when talking of 1-2 dollars, you may use either a singular or a plural verb according to whether the dollars are considered one thing or many.

  1. 1-2 dollars is enough for a candy-bar
  2. 1-2 dollars are enough for a candy-bar
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protected by RegDwigнt May 1 '13 at 16:10

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