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My friend, when referring to his landlord, said: "what she could do with is 9 foot of rope"

I say it should be feet of rope, not foot. He says both can be correct: 'when referring to height or vertical suspension, it's foot, and when referring to length, it's feet'. For example, people say they are "5 foot 10". I think when it comes to people's height, it's a special case where it's okay, but in this specific context, regardless of whether you're referring to the rope horizontally or vertically, 'feet' is always correct and 'foot' is wrong.

Who is right here?

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  • Note expressions like "9 foot of rope" often occur in some regions. So we cannot choose your "always" answers.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 11:58
  • if a sales assistant cuts 35 feet of rope off a reel they will then be selling the customer a 35 foot rope. But, as @GEdgar says, the customer may well have asked for "35 foot of rope". However it would be much more unusual for a customer to ask for "11 metre of rope". "11 metres of rope" would be much more common even though the final product would be "an 11 metre rope".
    – BoldBen
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 7:13
  • Not only rope, but most measurements of more than one foot also appear to be called 'x foot' rather than 'x feet' in UK. Perhaps it's a regional thing, not sure. But technically 'five foot two, eyes of blue' may be wrong, but it's used more than 'five feet two'. Seems only to apply to the measurement using ft!
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 11:57

1 Answer 1

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There's a clear majority according to COCA:

  • feet of rope: 35
  • foot of rope: 3

Plus, the latter category includes one instance of "a foot of rope" which always will take the singular "foot".

The same seems to be true when measuring "feet/foot of" for other nouns, though this is a little harder to measure. Still, there are a few examples of "foot of [noun]" for numbers greater than 1. This is from Fox News reporting on Hurricane Irma in 2017 (from COCA's spoken text section):

Adam Housley in Key Largo. We've just got in word storm surge is a significant threat for the Keys still as the west wind continue. The storm surge could increase to 5 to 10 feet above ground level, so 5 to 10 foot of water.

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  • A raw Google search brings the ratio down to about 2 : 1 in favour of 'foot' here. It's a perverse usage really; 'x inches of rope'. Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 12:58

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