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When talking about time as a unit, which one is correct, in second or in seconds?

For example:

How long does it take to complete the task in second?


How long does it take to complete the task in seconds?

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closed as too localized by FumbleFingers, RegDwigнt Mar 14 '12 at 17:58

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I think this is general reference – FumbleFingers Mar 14 '12 at 17:56
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The correct form is in seconds:

Please specify the time in seconds (in minutes, in days, in years, etc).

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I agree, however I think a more interesting question is whether or not to pluralise the units when stating a figure. i.e. 23 Metres or 23 Metre. – Urbycoz Mar 14 '12 at 13:34
@Urbycoz: The length of the cloth is 23 meters. Why would it be 23 meter? – Armen Ծիրունյան Mar 14 '12 at 13:36
@Armen. It would be a 23 meter race not a 23 meters race. – artfullyContrived Mar 14 '12 at 13:44
@artfullyContrived: Indeed, because in this case it acts like an adjective, not a noun. A 12 year old boy is playing in the street. The boy that's playing in the street is 12 yearS old. – Armen Ծիրունյան Mar 14 '12 at 13:45
@Armen. I agree that's what people tend to say in practice, but it's debatable. The argument is that scientifically "metre" is only there to denote the units. It should never be pluralised. You would always write 23m, never 23ms. – Urbycoz Mar 14 '12 at 14:11

Use the plural, "seconds".

In general, when you do not know whether the number of something is one or more than one, you use the plural.

Like, "How many people attended the meeting?", NOT "How many person attended the meeting?"

Even if the number is most likely one: "Polygamy is illegal here, but the number of wives Bob has is unknown." NOT "number of wife".

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