Grey area in syntax of pluralities

“Syntax of pluralities” was about the most pseudointellectual way I could think of asking what the deal is with this special case:

I understand that you can travel 1 mile or you can travel 2 miles, but why is it that you can also travel 1.1 mileS? See what I’m saying here? It really doesn’t make sense to me that you anything that falls between 1 and 2 be lumped into the plural form. I really don’t have a solution, just wondered if anyone else thought this was odd. If it were up to me I’d hold the -s until I got 2 or more of something…like they tell you in elementary school.

What if you travel zero miles, or .5 miles?

The general rule is that it’s only singular if there’s exactly one. Otherwise, it’s plural.

Related issues –

$5 million but not $5 millions
five-foot leap but not five-feet leap

The first is a shorthand for “five million dollars.” The numeral is a reference to the number of dollars, not the number of millions.

The second is that the singular is used in an adjectival phrase about a number (which is also why “million” isn’t plural – you don’t pluralize the phrase).

One and fractional amounts are plural because of the ‘and’ inbetween ‘1’ and the fraction. We say “one and one half miles.”

Yes, it could have been singular in usage, but I guess that the use of ‘and’ made people think of it as plural. By extension, 1 1/2 miles becomes 1.5 miles (one point five miles), with the ‘point’ replacing the ‘and.’

However, people would and do say “half a mile.”

But, OTOH, by extending the modern convention of decimalizing the numeral from 1.5 mile (“one point five miles”) we get .5 miles (“point five miles”). In this case, people connect the ‘point’ with pluralization. Only with ‘1’ do we have a clear singular without and ‘ands’ or ‘points’ to trick us into using the plural.


Store down my street: “T-shirts mart”- “Your sign is wrong.” “But we sell more dan one t-shirt!”

I always figured it should be singular for one or less, plural for anything more than one, no matter how tiny the amount over one: .4 mile up the road or 1.1 miles up the road.