This is in relation to the question "It's “1 degrees” or is it “1 degree” outside?". I have heard many people say that it is zero degrees outside. Is this correct, or is it 0 degree? The latter simply doesn't sound right.

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    Zero is treated as plural in (AFAIK) all circumstances. I have zero apples, zero chips and zero cares – Matt E. Эллен Jan 3 '14 at 18:27
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    There are no cars on the road. – Blessed Geek Jan 3 '14 at 19:51
  • @BlessedGeek Great example. +1. – Josh Jan 3 '14 at 20:31
  • I don't care how you say it, it's minus 5 right now and I'm freezing. – Mitch Jan 3 '14 at 22:57
  • @BlessedGeek: There are no Santa Clauses? – user1635 Jan 4 '14 at 17:06

"One degree" is correct, as is "zero degrees". It grates on my inner geek that a quantity of zero is pluralized, but that's the way it is.

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    Don't think of it as a plural as such; think of it instead as a ‘non-singular’. It applies to everything that is not precisely equal to one, whether it's higher or lower. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 3 '14 at 18:36
  • + 1, I didn't know that. Thank you for your answer! – recursive recursion Jan 3 '14 at 18:38
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    @Janus: everything except "one half" or "a half", but maybe that counts as a singular half-mile. "One half mile", but "0.5 miles". – Peter Shor Jan 3 '14 at 18:43
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    @Peter, ‘half’ when used like that basically functions like an adjective, so even though the semantic meaning of the mile changes, it is still a singular. You can also speak of a double mile, which is the same as two miles, but it is grammatically singular. Only numerals (including decimals) and determiners can force a noun to non-singularity; adjectives do not (vel sim). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 3 '14 at 20:05
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    If 0 degrees offends, just use 273 Kelvin. For similarly geeky reasons there are no degrees Kelvin – mgb Jan 4 '14 at 1:02

From the OED,

Each of the marks denoting degrees of temperature on the scale of a thermometer, or the interval between two successive marks.

This usage of degree literally meant to measure against a thermometer containing markings that were called degrees. Thus, zero degrees is when the liquid inside did not rise to any of the marks above. one degree is to say the liquid inside rose to one mark.

Admittedly, we have now greatly expanded the concept of how we conceive of temperature, but such is the origin.

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