# Why Is Zero Plural?

skeptic2
Why is zero plural?

(eg. I have zero items on my agenda.)

Gold Member
You can't multiply by zero and obtain any result other than zero, it's still just zero.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Why is zero plural?

(eg. I have zero items on my agenda.)

Is that a proper usage of the word "zero"?

We have no items.
We have a zero count.

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Homework Helper
zero bananas

Is that a proper usage of the word "zero"?

Yes, we have no bananas

we have no bananas today!

Pinu7
Taking a wild guess...

A single object is singular.

A plural object is non-singular.

Zero, under this definition, will be a plural quantity.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
I would assume the grammatical constructs for "zero", "one", and "more than one" evolved long before we actually had numbers to express those ideas. Then, when we invented numbers, we simply inserted the numbers into the existing constructs.

Here's another one you might not have noticed.

It's easy to say "there are fourteen and two-thirds apples in that basket", right? Sounds quite natural.

Now, replace 14 2/3 with 1 2/3.

You probably said "there are one and two-thirds apples", but I suspect were a bit more hesitant.

Now, try 2/3.

You probably couldn't do it -- you had to switch to an entirely different construct: "there is two-thirds of an apple", or maybe "there are two-thirds of an apple", but you almost surely couldn't bring yourself to say "there are two-thirds apples" or "there is two-thirds apple".

Homework Helper
"there is two-thirds of an apple", or maybe "there are two-thirds of an apple", but you almost surely couldn't bring yourself to say "there are two-thirds apples" or "there is two-thirds apple".

There are two-thirds of an apple,

there is one-third of an apple,

but yes there are still no bananas.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
but yes there are still no bananas.

How do you tally no bananas?

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Staff Emeritus
Gold Member

Yes, we have no bananas

we have no bananas today!

Didn't you just make my point? Would we say that we have zero bananas?

There are zero loaves of bread, or no loaves of bread? As opposed to, we have a zero count.

Gold Member

Would we say that we have zero bananas?
We could say, we have bananas...NOT.

Mentor
Why is zero plural?

(eg. I have zero items on my agenda.)

Mentor

We could say, we have bananas...NOT.
No, because you could still have a bananna.

zoobyshoe
Taking a wild guess...

A single object is singular.

A plural object is non-singular.

Zero, under this definition, will be a plural quantity.

This makes sense: everything that is not singular is by default plural.

Mentor
Simple and satisfying, but according to the dictionary, wrong: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/plural
consisting of, containing, or pertaining to more than one.

Apparently, the real problem here is that we are speaking English:
Plural is a grammatical number...Languages having only a singular and plural form may still differ in their treatment of zero. For example, in English, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, the plural form is used for zero or more than one, and the singular for one thing only. By contrast, in French, the singular form is used for zero.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plural

Bob S
Why is zero plural?

(eg. I have zero items on my agenda.)
Zero in the above example is an adjective, not a noun. In English, unlike other languages, adjectives do not change with declension or pleurality of noun.
zero alumni, zero alumnae, etc.
A pleural use of zero as a noun is: How many zeros does 1 trillion dollars have?

zoobyshoe
How many zeros does 1 trillion dollars have?

tribdog

isn't it?

zoobyshoe
isn't it?

I'm checking to find out.

TheStatutoryApe

It appears so. If you look up the definition of a number it gives the definition when referring to a number of things as an adjective. Makes sense.

Wouldn't "1trillion" be the object? It isn't modifying the noun and I believe that's what adjectives do.

TheStatutoryApe
Wouldn't "1trillion" be the object? It isn't modifying the noun and I believe that's what adjectives do.

It is modifying the noun. Dollars being the noun it is describing the number of them.

It is modifying the noun. Dollars being the noun it is describing the number of them.

Duh, got ya. I was confusing subject with noun hehe. Think I did that in English class a lot too.

Homework Helper
me bananas!

Hi George!
How do you tally no bananas?

I only tally me bananas.
Zero in the above example is an adjective, not a noun. In English, unlike other languages, adjectives do not change with declension or pleurality of noun.
zero alumni, zero alumnae, etc.
A pleural use of zero as a noun is: How many zeros does 1 trillion dollars have?

I think the strict answer is that zero should always be a noun, not an adjective …

all the natural numbers are adjectives, but they are written as numerals, with the same name, and a numeral is a noun

eg the number "one" is written as the numeral "1", with the name "one".

but the number "no" is written as the numeral "0", with the name "zero".

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You can pluralize zero:

The Kamikaze Zeros are to starboard!

Okay, not so much. In a similar fashion, there was some debate about what to call the first decade of this new millennium (in the same fashion as, say, the 20s and the 90s), and some suggested calling it the zeros. Never really caught on, so in the future, this decade might be the one that nobody ever talks about!

Jimmy Snyder
I asked a bunch of my friends, but none were able to help. Then I asked my wife and she was. Imagine that, she's not even a native speaker.

Homework Helper
Why is zero plural?

Don't you mean "Why are zero plural"? Of course you don't.

When we say "there are zero things here" we are vulgarizing the correct phrase "the number of those things that are here is zero."

In general, the absence of a thing is the absence of one of those things; "one of those things" is singular.

"There is not one of those things here."
"There is none of those things here."
"There is nothing here."

So you should say "I have no item on my agenda"; but in conversation, we are allowed to make things "sound better than correct," so we do say "I have no items on my agenda." This suggests the lack of the expected "many things."

Notice the obvious singular: "I have nothing on my agenda."
"nothing" = "no thing" = "zero thing"
russ watters said:
Apparently, the real problem here is that we are speaking English
Agree

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