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While we normally use both our feet to walk, why is it grammatically acceptable to say "on foot" not "on feet"?

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    For the same reason that we say 'by rail', when in fact there are always two rails involved; and 'shoe store', when in fact nobody buys only one shoe there. I.e, why mention the obvious? May 4 '14 at 16:59
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    But on "shoe store" I guess there is a grammar rule. Because shoe is used as an adjective, it cannot be made plural. May 4 '14 at 17:16
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    Yes, and when you walk on foot there is a grammar rule that says it's not "on feet". Grammar rules are not something passed onto us by some high committee. Grammar "rules" are really just descriptions of what we already do anyway, long before we go to school to learn that grammar even exists. Adjectives can be plural alright, in many many languages. There is no rule that we cannot do that in English. There is merely an observation that right now we don't. Likewise, another observation is that we do not go by feet or by cars.
    – RegDwigнt
    May 4 '14 at 18:00
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    To echo John Lawler's point, why is it toothbrush, and not teethbrush? (As a child I always asked myself that question!)
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 4 '14 at 21:29
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    Can I throw in * on horsesbacks ? By trains ? May 4 '14 at 22:48
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The funny thing is in German this expression is also used in singular: on foot - zu Fuß. I've just had a look into a Latin and Greek dictionary though I have no big standard dictionaries. It seems in Latin pedibus, ablative plural, with feet, was used but also pedem ferre, accusative singular, an idiomatic expression for to go or to come. Maybe the singular was a kind of artistic literary device of variation by using the singular instead of the plural and this poetic use gained general acceptance.

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Both are used:

He stands on feet of clay.

and

I will follow you on foot.

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  • "He stands..." isn't walking.
    – Third News
    May 4 '14 at 21:09
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    @ThirdNews You are correct, but all it takes is one step........... May 4 '14 at 21:45
  • I prefer a giant leap for mankind ;-)
    – Third News
    May 4 '14 at 21:47
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    He who has a foot of clay hasn't legs to stand on. May 4 '14 at 22:51
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The process of physiology in human locomotion (walking) requires one foot in front of the other but the locomotive action of using both feet necessitates hopping or jumping

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We use on foot to describe a person who goes to another place without using any transportation.

Example

Majedo goes to school on foot everyday.

But We use on feet to describe a person who stands for 2 hours or more to complete his work.

Example

He stands for 3 hours on feet.

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    "He stands for 3 hours on feet" is not good English, but "He was on his feet for 3 hours" is. It means he--whoever "he" was--was standing or perhaps walking about for three hours. A surgeon might stand at an operating table doing his job for hours at a time. A cook might stand at the stove or the kitchen table for a similar length of time.
    – tautophile
    May 11 '18 at 3:58
  • If I am standing, I am already on my feet, there's no need to add "on feet" to your example sentence. It is like saying: "He dances three hours on feet" Redundant and frankly quite odd, but you can say "light-footed", and "light on your feet".
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 11 '18 at 5:54

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