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The sentence is

The total length of the public road's network is 29151 km, out of which 1243 km are motorways, 6810 km of national roads and 21098 km of regional and local roads.
source: ASECAP

However, I saw a sentence where “out of which” was used in a phrase, such as “out of which 1000 km is motorway”.
I want to ask whether “is” or “are” should follow after the word kilometre(s) or abbreviation km?

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  • There are two singular/plural issues - kilometre(s) and motorway(s). Answers given so far deal with km, which governs whether the verb should be is or are. I have up-voted the answers which propose is. But I notice in your OP that in one place you use motorways (plural) and in another place motorway (singular). And you seem to have changed the verb to accord with that. Motorway(s) here is a compliment and does not determine the singularity/plurality of the verb. I do think, however that motorway is better, Nothing wrong with all roads are motorway meaning motorway status. – WS2 Jun 5 '15 at 8:01
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    That's quite poorly written. It lacks parallelism. It switches from a verb (are) to a preposition (of), which makes no sense. The singular/plural issue is the least of its worries—in fact I'd say not a worry at all. Either sounds perfectly natural to me. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 5 '15 at 9:39
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    It is valid english. The IS refers to the length of the road network which is one singular value. The ARE refers to the multiple roads which comprise that total length. In both cases it is the measured object that determines the pluralarity rather than the unit of measurement. – JamesRyan Jun 5 '15 at 11:06
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    apart form the obvious typo in the sentence, note that it's perfectly ok to use "kms" as the abbreviation for kilmoeters, if you prefer; but "km" is probably more common. – Fattie Jun 5 '15 at 15:56
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I think it is a better idea to use 'is'. Here is the reason why:

Commonly, we say, '1000 km is a long distance.'

This is because, 1000 kilometers is considered as one whole unit/set. We are not referring to each kilometer of those 1000 kilometers separately. The idea of 1000 km is one whole, long distance, so we use 'is'. You can use 'are' if you have a discrete idea of 1000 km in mind(1000 km comprising 1000 individual units) but that usage is not seen very often. Hope that helped!

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    This use of the plural is discussed in another question – Andrew Leach Jun 5 '15 at 13:14
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    I'm new to this site. I didn't really refer to what you had posted earlier. These were solely my ideas put together in my own words. – Aishwarya A R Jun 5 '15 at 13:20
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    @JoeBlow I think your edit undermines the original author's answer. The OP stated that "is" was correct. You instead chose to say it could be either (not what OP stated) and comment (incorrectly) on the use of "of" in the sentence (which is not what the question concerns). Not that it matters in this context, but the use of "of" is grammatical if you consider it in the sense of a partitive expression (similar to "I have five yards of silk"); "there are five kilometers of trails in the state park" and not "There are five kilometers trails in the state park" which means something different – eques Jun 8 '15 at 15:59
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    Thank you for all your interest. I found this information useful. – user122988 Jun 9 '15 at 8:35
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    @JoeBlow It is not right for you to add your own commentary onto someone else's answer. You may discuss with them in a comment or create your own answer, but you may not add alternatives into the original answer. This line 'The two "of"s are a mistake, and should be either "is" or "are"." is at the top of the answer and does affect its interpretation. The "ofs" are not as erroneous as you would suggest and the OP doesn't suggest that in any case. – eques Jun 9 '15 at 17:24
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The phrase Xkm is plural in every instance, unless the value of X is exactly 1 (assuming km is the head noun in the noun phrase). We can see this from the fact that in speech, the word kilometres (or kilometers for American readers) has the plural suffix, 'S', apart from when preceded by the numeral 1:

  • 1 kilometre
  • 0.5 kilometres
  • 1.5 kilometres
  • 1,000 kilomtres

However, when such phrases are the subjects of sentences, we see both singular and plural verb agreement (arguably singular is more frequent). This is because we can conceive of 2km as a single distance, or as two individual kilometres. As is the case, for example, with collective nouns, it is how we perceive the subject that matters, not its grammatical number or its plural or singular morphology.

This is nothing special about kilometre noun phrases. We see this type of singular agreement with all types of plural measure phrases:

  • Twenty kilos is quite a lot to have to carry around all day.
  • Two tonnes is the absolute limit.
  • 100 decibels is far too loud.
  • Ten up-votes is not nearly enough.

Here is an Ngram which might give us a vague idea of the relative frequency of kilometres is and kilometres are. The blue line is kilometres is, the red kilometres are:

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  • I would like to thank you all. It seems conclusively better to use either ''is'' or ''are'' after km. If you write kilometers in long unabbreviated form it is sensible to use '' are''.However one can also use ''is'' after unabbreviated form of kilometres. I became sure that it is up to the choice of the writer or speaker. – user122988 Jun 9 '15 at 7:15
  • @Learny Almost, but that's not quite right. It depends on how you are thinking about the sentence. It doesn't matter whether you write km or kilometres. It's the same. But if you don't want to make a mistake, it's probably better to say "km/kilometres is". This is very rarely wrong. However "km/kilomteres are" can often give a very bad sentence "Two tonnes are the limit" is very bad! But sometimes it just depends on the choice of the speaker. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jun 9 '15 at 9:47
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'km' is the short form for 'kilometre'. This makes it singular. However, the same symbol is used to denote 'kilometres', which is plural.

Understand that 'km' is not a word. Its a symbol. According to the SI system of units, there is no plural for these symbols and the same symbol denotes both 1 and plural quantities.

Therefore, distinction of singular and plural occurs only when using the full form and not the symbol.

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    Sure; but if you do use the symbol rather than the full word in a written sentence, you still have to make a choice as to whether the verb is the singular or plural form. – Steve Melnikoff Jun 5 '15 at 9:52
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    "km" is an abbreviation for a word that is singular or plural. Thus, the use of verbs, etc which depend on grammatical number matter based on whether "km" represents the singular or the plural (and it's more likely to be plural). In some cases though, a plural kilometer distance can be though of as a unit (similar to "a dozen eggs" when "a" is used only with singular). – eques Jun 5 '15 at 13:11
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    While you are correct that there is no SI reading "kms" - so what - it's quite common to abbreviate kilometers as kms. There is utterly no reason or need to use "SI units" in normal prose: you can use miles or leagues if you want. Mille miglia. – Fattie Jun 5 '15 at 15:57
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    I think you've answered the wrong question: the OP is not asking about km vs kms, they're asking about is vs are. – WinnieNicklaus Jun 5 '15 at 19:11
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    If you believe that - essentially you are saying everyone at all times should use only SI units, in everything from song lyrics to daily speech -- I just really don't know how to answer that. When the writer in question (who is a staggeringly bad writer, but put that aside) used the abbreviation "km", the writer *WAS NOT USING the SI abbreviation. it's very likely the writer does not even know what "SI" is. Coincidentally, (one of the) common written abbreviations of kilometer, happens to be the same as the SI form. – Fattie Jun 6 '15 at 5:18
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Both are correct. In my opinion it is most natural to interpret "1000 kilometres" as a distance, which makes it a singular. English has a tendency to somewhat illogically interpret such measurements as plurals as if we were interested in distinct individual kilometres. In my native German this tendency is even a strict rule in some grammatical contexts. But in this context you have a choice even in German and certainly in English.

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  • I would like to thank you all. These information is very useful. – user122988 Jun 9 '15 at 7:17
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I would use "out of which 1,000 km are motorway".

My reasoning is that the 1,000 km almost certainly don't come together in one stretch and are an aggregate of separate, shorter sections of motorway.

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    What a good point. I personally would use "are", as well. And that's the perfect reason why and explanation of that. – Fattie Jun 7 '15 at 4:44
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I would like to thank you all. It seems conclusively better to use either ''is'' or ''are'' after km. If you write kilometers in long unabbreviated form it is sensible to use '' are''.However one can also use ''is'' after unabbreviated form of kilometres. I became sure that it is up to the choice of the writer or speaker. –

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  • It is advisable to accept one of the posted answers. The one that helped you the most. Click on the check mark beneath the bottom arrow. – Mari-Lou A Jun 9 '15 at 8:06
  • this is about the only sensible answer on here :) – Fattie Jun 10 '15 at 4:10
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The sentence

HAS A TRIVIAL ERROR, PERHAPS JUST A TYPO

It's just that simple. the two "of"s were meant to be "are" (or "is").

"of" is utterly meaningless, might as well have typed "cat" there.

The total length of the public road's network is 29151 km, out of which 1243 km are motorways, 6810 km of national roads and 21098 km of regional and local.

should be..

The total length of the public road network is 29151 km, out of which 1243 km are motorways, 6810 km are national roads, and 21098 km are regional and local roads.

or, if you prefer,

The total length of the public road network is 29151 km, out of which 1243 km is motorway, 6810 km is national road, and 21098 km is regional or local road.

It's truly incredible something so simple can get so much press here.


Regarding the issue asked about in the comment below.

It couldn't be simpler. You can interpret the three references as to "sections" (so for example, the first section discussed is a section 1243 kms long), in which case singular.

Or you can interpret the discussion as about the various "kilometer lengths of highway" in which case plural.

What's the question? It's the norm in English that there are at least three ways to go with anything. You can choose either the plural "way" or the singular "way"; this is totally unsurprising in English: it is the norm, there is nothing, whatsoever, to say about it. Just choose one or the other.

Note also the infuriating apostrophe-s in "road's" - idiotic, or just a typo.

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  • not that anyone should have to point this out - I guess it is ELU - if you add them up it's correct. – Fattie Jun 5 '15 at 15:55
  • True, there seems to be a typo. But it doesn't anwer the question. It could as well be "The total length of the public road's network is 29151 km, out of which 1243 km is motorways, 6810 km is national roads, and 21098 km is regional and local roads." – Nick Volynkin Jun 5 '15 at 21:15
  • How do you know that the writer didn't mean to use a plural verb? A typo is often a simple basic spelling mistake or when the position of two letters are switched. If I write hte anser is obvious it's clear that the first word is a result of me typing too quickly, whilst the second is a simple spelling mistake. The verb "are" in the citation cannot be in any form or shape be considered merely a typo for "is". So, technically speaking, your first statement is incorrect. Or should I say that "it has a typo" is itself a typo? (From OD)Typo: a typographical error. – Mari-Lou A Jun 7 '15 at 4:07
  • Are you going to say "the road's networks" is a typo too, or would it not be more accurate and usefu for the OP to hear that it is a punctuation error, or an example of a greengrocer's apostrophe? "Typo" is such a lazy and cop-out explanation. – Mari-Lou A Jun 7 '15 at 4:16
  • Quite right, i lean towards characterising "ridiculously obvious mistakes that any editor would have instantly changed without comment" as "typos". The main conscious reason I do this is that it can help cut through the incredible clutter which appears on this site. I meant the "of"s were "ridiculously obvious mistakes that any editor would have instantly changed without comment". You know, if I was literally working in the office with that guy and had to edit the text in question, I'd actually just say unto him "oh, you've got a typo here, of for are"...it's less embarrassing than "mistake"! – Fattie Jun 7 '15 at 4:23

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