# Why Is Zero Plural?

#### skeptic2

Why is zero plural?

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

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#### Danger

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

#### Ivan Seeking

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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#### tiny-tim

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.

#### Hurkyl

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".

#### tiny-tim

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.

#### George Jones

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
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#### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Re: zero bananas

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.

#### dlgoff

Gold Member
Re: zero bananas

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

#### russ_watters

Mentor
Why is zero plural?

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

#### russ_watters

Mentor
Re: zero bananas

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.

#### russ_watters

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?

#### TheStatutoryApe

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.

#### ibnsos

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

#### TheStatutoryApe

Wouldn't "1trillion" be the object? It isn't modifying the noun and I believe thats what adjectives do.
It is modifying the noun. Dollars being the noun it is describing the number of them.

#### ibnsos

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 alot too.

#### tiny-tim

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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#### MATLABdude

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!

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