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CambridgeGEL, page 1588 reads

Examples like She’s six foot tall involve a special use of the singular form rather than a base plural: the difference between this and How many feet are there in a mile? is a matter of syntax rather than of inflectional morphology.

In a herd of elephant it is arguable that the construction involves not a base plural, but a special use of the singular in certain syntactic contexts (comparable to the six foot tall construction).

What are that "special use" and those "syntactic contexts" the author refers to?

  • The authors are saying that this arguably exemplifies "a special use of 'the singular' which is also (perhaps the 'arguably' extends to these also) seen in other contexts". – Edwin Ashworth Jul 5 '20 at 19:06
  • @EdwinAshworth Examples like She’s six foot tall involve a special use of the singular form rather than a base plural: the difference between this and How many feet are there in a mile? is a matter of syntax rather than of inflectional morphology. – GJC Jul 24 '20 at 19:05
  • Why do you ask questions here? – Edwin Ashworth Jul 25 '20 at 12:01
  • @EdwinAshworth where here? what questons? – GJC Jul 25 '20 at 16:07
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MIDDLE ENGLISH fot /foːt/ "foot" : by far the most common plural form is feet, and fot is usually only used in contexts of the unit of length.

OED: Foot (pl. feet): lineal measure (Often in sing. when after numerals). 2. Ellipt. Foot-soldiers; †men of foot. Often after an ordinal, with ‘regiment of’ omitted.

  • Not my downvote above, by the way. Here, I think you're playing off one venerable authority against another. And if I was going to challenge CGEL on matters of interpretation like this, I'd want more than the views of even the best lexicographers to support my criticisms. Top grammarians look at developments in syntax and semantics. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 25 '20 at 18:50
  • @EdwinAshworth In front of another noun, the plural for the unit of length is foot: a 20-foot putt; his 70-foot ketch. Foot can also be used instead of feet when mentioning a quantity and in front of words like tall: four foot of snow; he is at least six foot tall wordreference.com/definition/foot – GJC Aug 15 '20 at 10:22
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"Six foot" should be hyphenated ("six-foot") because it constitutes as single adjectival phrase. For the same reason, "foot" is in the singular. For example, "a six-foot soldier."

"Six feet" would be used (in the plural and without a hyphen) where "feet" is a noun within the sentence, and not part of an adjectival phrase: for example, "the soldier's head was six feet above the ground."

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