# can I say “the square of a, b, and c”?

As the title said, I am wondering which one of the following sentences is right.

``` 1. the square of a, b, and c. 2. the squares of a, b, and c. ```

for a*a, b*b, and c*c.

• perhaps you could also say what you intend this to mean. You can say any of them. – Jim Jul 9 '17 at 2:20
• You can say it, but many people, including most mathematicians, will be confused as to what you mean. – Hot Licks Jul 9 '17 at 2:28
• what do you mean? @HotLicks – aban Jul 9 '17 at 2:39
• I'm looking at a grid with a letter in each square. "The squares of a, b, and c" identifies three squares of the grid. I'm looking at a map of an amusement park. There is a region called "Alphabetland", and in it are several "squares" (surrounded by walkways) with different amusements in each. "The square of a, b, and c" identifies the location of the Alphabet-Go-Round. – Hot Licks Jul 9 '17 at 2:48
• Yes. but why do mathematicians get confused when a, b, and c are mathematical notations? @HotLicks – aban Jul 9 '17 at 2:55

Without more context, both are correct. Let us assume that a=2, b=3, and c=4. In that case, your first example would mean:

4, 3, and 4.

Because "the square" (singular) would be interpreted as applying to only a, your list would really be (the square of a), b, and c.

Meanwhile, your second example would mean:

4, 9, and 16

Because "the squares" (plural) would be interpreted as applying to each item of the list, your list would really be the squares of (a, b, and c).

Update: based on your update, the version you are looking for is the second one:

the squares of a, b, and c.

Hope this helps.

It completely depends on the context.

The square of a, b, and c would be some kind of mathematical expression similar to (abc)^2 or (a+b+c)^2 (most likely the latter).

The squares of a, b, and c would probably take the square of each letter individually: a^2, b^2, c^2.

If your edit is meant to represent using each square separately, I would use "squares". If you are squaring all three together at once (where at once could mean any expression), I'd use "square".

The second. The plural and the word "and" are both important.

The squares of a, b, and c are a^2, b^2, and c^2.

The square of a, b, and c can be interpreted mathematically as (a+b+c)^2 or even (ab+c)^2. The square of a,b, c would be (abc)^2.