A few more “hundred” vs “hundreds”

If we're talking about 8 hundred (an exact number of hundreds) we use the singular for the ordinal. But what if we use an unspecified quantity such as "more". Or, I just said it: "number of hundreds". So I reckon it's "more hundreds", "more thousands". Is this correct?

Exact context:

If you have a larger budget, feel free to go for a few more hundreds of MHz more for your CPU.

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The ordinal would be 800th; I think you mean cardinal. – choster Feb 12 '12 at 10:02
Right, sorry. I got confused. – Axonn Feb 12 '12 at 10:16
I'd suggest buy a slightly faster CPU. "A few hundred more MHz for your CPU" sounds like you're taking a CPU to the computer store and asking them to sprinkle on 600 MHz. – rdhs Feb 12 '12 at 13:29
Suggestion noted and accepted. Still want to know how I should use the cardinal in the case in question. – Axonn Feb 12 '12 at 14:44

We use the singular when the magnitude number is modified by few:

We need a few hundred dollars.

We need a few thousand widgets.

If we keep the object, we would put more after the number:

We need a few hundred more dollars.

We need a few thousand more widgets.

But if we drop the explicit object and go with the "few ... more" construction, the demarcation is not so clear, because the number becomes the object in the sentence:

We need a few hundred more.

We need a few thousand more.

We need a few more hundred.

We need a few more thousand.

While it is stylistically better to use the former in writing, you hear the latter case used all the time in speech, and it is readily understood. In this case, it would be misleading (or at least ambiguous) to pluralize the numbers, because it would imply that the number is an unbreakable unit. Note that the latter still considers the number to be somewhat unitary, but not rigidly so. This is an important distinction.

If you were to say

We need a few more hundreds.

it could be construed as meaning the need was specifically for hundred-dollar bills, instead of a quantity of money that is merely in the hundreds of dollars.

But if you say

We need a few more hundred.

you are asking the listener to consider "hundred" as a softer kind of unitary grouping.

Example from real life: When I got my current job, my salary demand was slightly higher than their range allowed. I declined the offer, but the company really wanted to hire me, so after consultations with management the company representative called me back and said, "It turns out we can come up with a few more thousand after all." He might easily have said "a few thousand more," but the way he put it put more emphasis on increments of one thousand than increments of "thousands of ones." I hope I'm making this clear, because the more I write, the finer this distinction sounds, and yet I do feel it is an important usage distinction to make and understand.

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I think you nailed it pretty good with the "few more hundreds" example where you reminded me of the possibility for misunderstanding. I will go for the singular in the future, if I ever come across the "more XXX" construction again. But overall, I understand that I should avoid the construction altogether, as jwpat7 recommended. – Axonn Feb 12 '12 at 17:00
@Axonn: there is no reason to avoid the construction altogether. If you use "few", you should use the singular, and if you use "of", you should use the plural. But this Ngram shows that none of the phrases "a few hundred more", "a few more hundred", and "hundreds more of" are uncommon. – Peter Shor Feb 12 '12 at 18:50
@Peter Shor: "few more hundreds" is definitely bad ::- D. Thanks for the ngram. – Axonn Feb 12 '12 at 21:16
I would think that "few more hundreds of something" would in many cases be better than "few more hundred of something", since the prepositional phrase would imply that "hundred" was being used as a noun. Merely saying "a few more hundred" by itself could be taken as shorthand for "a few more hundred [aforementioned things]", in which case "hundred" is an adjective, but adjectives don't usually attach to prepositional phrases. The most notable exception would be "hundred of them" [as opposed to "hundreds of them"]; in that case, I would consider "of them" to be an idiomatic construction... – supercat Oct 10 '14 at 17:15
...rather than a literal prepositional phrase, since there is no other form of pronoun meaning "thing such as that". – supercat Oct 10 '14 at 17:16

Maybe it would help to think of how it is used. When a cardinal number is used as an adjective, it is treated as adjective in that it does not change number. There is a red house. There are many more red houses. ... Red does not change. There is one (more) house. There are five hundred (more) houses.

OR ... think of it as a suffix like -teen or -ty. These do not change when used as numbers: There are seventeen more houses. There are sixty more houses. There are two hundred (more) houses.

The more doesn't change anything here.

When hundred is a noun then it can be made plural. A hundred-dollar bill can be shortened to a hundred. Here it is a noun: I need two more hundreds (meaning 100-dollar bills).

Then there is the one that is tripping you up ... as a predeterminer/multiplier (not sure of the exact part of speech) ... I see hundreds (of houses). I need hundreds more (meaning I need an unspecified timesing of a hundred more). BUT ... if you know the exact number then becomes an adjective again without the plural ... I need 500 (five hundred) (more) houses.

The same applies to thousand or million. I need thousands more ... I need millions more.

I don't know if that helps or makes it murkier! lol

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It helped. Thank you! ::- ). – Axonn Feb 12 '12 at 19:45

For unknown numbers, we can use "more" with the order of magnitude as in dozens more, hundreds more, and so on.

There are 12,000 Starbucks locations in the U.S., and thousands more abroad.

The national debt is over \$15 trillion, but the unfunded liability for Social Security is tens of trillions more.

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So you're saying that I'm not allowed to use it in this context? "If you have a bigger budget, feel free to go for a few more hundreds of MHz more for your CPU." – Axonn Feb 12 '12 at 10:15
This doesn't really answer the OP's question. Placing more after the quantity is different from placing it before, as he did. – Robusto Feb 12 '12 at 16:06
I thought it was clear with the examples that more comes after, not before. – choster Feb 12 '12 at 16:11
Your version definitely sounds better and I will rephrase my text. But as far as I understood, it's acceptable to have it before, even if you lose a few points in the stylistic department. – Axonn Feb 12 '12 at 17:01
@Axonn: Either "a few hundred MHz more" or "a few hundreds of MHz more". If you omit "of", then "hundred" serves as an adjective and thus needs no plural prefix. If you include "of", then "hundreds" may be considered a noun and thus use a plural suffix. – supercat Oct 10 '14 at 17:09

You can use either of hundred or hundreds in ...few more hundred(s)... but would write ...few more hundred MHz... vs ...few more hundreds of MHz... Note, the repetition of more in more hundreds of MHz more is both clumsy and unnecessary. One instead might write any of

... feel free to go for a few hundreds of MHz more for your CPU.
... feel free to go for a few hundred MHz more for your CPU.
... feel free to go for a few more hundreds of MHz for your CPU.

For examples, see links at ngrams for triplets formed from words few, more, hundred, hundreds, of. It will be seen that all of more hundreds of, hundreds more of, few hundred more, few more hundred, few hundreds more, few more hundreds have been used. (Not all pairs of these triplets are comparable.) While relative frequencies of use are interesting, it may be more useful to you to explore the source links given by ngrams, as for example those for more hundreds of. Following the links, you can easily find and compare phrasings such as "the world might well have to wait several more hundreds of millions of years before another such goose arose" (BTAS, p. 271, Sep 1947).

The phrase hundreds more of (red line) was frequent in the 1800's, more hundreds of (blue line) in the early 1900's, and few hundred more (green line) at the moment. Until about 1890, few more hundred (yellow line) and few more hundreds (pinkish line) were used with about the same frequency; since then, few more hundred has been about twice as frequent.

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Oh my. Apparently I ran into a can of worms eh? ::- ). I admit that my text is a bit clumsy, I rephrased it, but still, quite a complicated issue. Also, do you trust those ngrams? – Axonn Feb 12 '12 at 16:54
@Axonn, I know of no reason to doubt information provided by ngrams: relative percentages of books per year containing phrases. Of course irrelevant usages and punctuation mingled within phrases may misleadingly inflate counts. ngrams/info lists some of the corporae used, and mentions a journal article explaining methodology of sampling. – jwpat7 Feb 12 '12 at 17:14
hm, yes, it seems pretty solid. Thank you for telling me about ngrams. I didn't know about it ::- ). Also shows that my usage is not very popular ::- ). – Axonn Feb 12 '12 at 18:27