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Why Is Zero Plural?

  1. May 12, 2009 #1
    Why is zero plural?

    (eg. I have zero items on my agenda.)
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 12, 2009 #2

    Danger

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    You can't multiply by zero and obtain any result other than zero, it's still just zero. :biggrin:
     
  4. May 12, 2009 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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

    We have no items.
    We have a zero count.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2009
  5. May 12, 2009 #4

    tiny-tim

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    zero bananas

    Yes, we have no bananas

    we have no bananas today! :wink:
     
  6. May 12, 2009 #5
    Taking a wild guess.....

    A single object is singular.

    A plural object is non-singular.

    Zero, under this definition, will be a plural quantity.
     
  7. May 12, 2009 #6

    Hurkyl

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    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".
     
  8. May 12, 2009 #7

    tiny-tim

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    There are two-thirds of an apple,

    there is one-third of an apple,

    but yes there are still no bananas. :wink:
     
  9. May 12, 2009 #8

    George Jones

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    How do you tally no bananas?

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  10. May 12, 2009 #9

    Ivan Seeking

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    Re: zero bananas

    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.
     
  11. May 12, 2009 #10

    dlgoff

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    Re: zero bananas

    We could say, we have bananas....NOT.
     
  12. May 12, 2009 #11

    russ_watters

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    Because if you had no (zero) item on your adjenda, you could still have several items on your adjenda.
     
  13. May 12, 2009 #12

    russ_watters

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    Re: zero bananas

    No, because you could still have a bananna.
     
  14. May 12, 2009 #13
    This makes sense: everything that is not singular is by default plural.
     
  15. May 12, 2009 #14

    russ_watters

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    Simple and satisfying, but according to the dictionary, wrong: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/plural
    Apparently, the real problem here is that we are speaking English:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plural
     
  16. May 12, 2009 #15
  17. May 12, 2009 #16
    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?
     
  18. May 12, 2009 #17
    By your logic "1 trillion" is an adjective here?
     
  19. May 12, 2009 #18
    isn't it?
     
  20. May 12, 2009 #19
    I'm checking to find out.
     
  21. May 13, 2009 #20
    It appears so. If you look up the definition of a number it gives the definition when refering to a number of things as an adjective. Makes sense.
     
  22. May 13, 2009 #21

    Wouldn't "1trillion" be the object? It isn't modifying the noun and I believe thats what adjectives do.
     
  23. May 13, 2009 #22
    It is modifying the noun. Dollars being the noun it is describing the number of them.
     
  24. May 13, 2009 #23
    Duh, got ya. I was confusing subject with noun hehe. Think I did that in English class alot too.
     
  25. May 13, 2009 #24

    tiny-tim

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    me bananas!

    Hi George! :smile:
    I only tally me bananas. :wink:
    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 :wink:

    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".
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  26. May 13, 2009 #25

    MATLABdude

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    You can pluralize zero:

    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!
     
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