Are negative numbers singular or plural?

When posting a comment, the character count shows "n characters left", until you hit 1 character remaining - at which point, it switches to the singular. Fair enough.

But is 0 singular? Are negative numbers? Both use the singular phrasing, instead of plural. This is kind of a discussion point; personally, I'd have plural for any value except for "1 character", but I don't know what you think...

(Admittedly, it's a pretty darn minor point - I don't know how often the 600 character cap is hit, but I can't imagine it happens all that often...)

• Oooooh, a fellow OCDer. Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 2:42
• Voting this up because this kind of stuff drives me batty. >.> Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 5:36
• A great opportunity to promote english.stackexchange.com Commented Sep 16, 2010 at 0:06
• It depends if its `-∞` or `-∞s`... Commented Sep 17, 2010 at 10:06

I respectfully refer you here

New users can't create new tags: show a singular or plural message?

• Hey! I didn't tag it as 'bug'! I tagged it as 'possible bug'! There's a difference! ;) Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 7:12

It is 1 character and -1 character.

It is characters for everything else, including 0 characters.

This is apparently how English "grammar" defines it.

The best explanation of this is at: Good question: are fractions and decimals singular or plural?

Note this is not necessarily true in other languages.

• For some reason -1 being plural just makes more sense to me :( Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 2:57
• -1 being plural is the mathematical definition, but not the grammatical definition. Being programmers, we all tend to sway to the mathematical. Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 3:07
• weird, i've never heard of -1 being singular. I would always say "negative one characters"
– Kip
Commented Nov 28, 2009 at 17:43
• Is -1 singular or plural? on English.SE. (Disclosure: I have an answer there preferring -1 being plural. :p) Commented Jan 28, 2011 at 3:50

Time for some `Math.abs()`!

Clarity:

``````var plurality = (Math.abs(-8) == 1) ? "character" : "characters" ;
``````
• I don't get it. Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 2:54
• Too esoteric? :) Just a suggestion to find the absolute value, and base plurality off of it. Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 2:55
• Starts to make sense now, but it didn't with revisions 1-5 Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 2:58
• Yeah; it was working inside my head...not as clearly when I put it out on the intarwebs. Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 2:59

Yes, it's a very minor point. We should just make it "character(s) left" so we don't have to worry about figuring out when to start switching up the plurality.

• No! We should do it correctly. Speaking as a pedant, I am furious about this. I never noticed it before, but since it's been pointed out, I'll never be able to ignore it. Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 2:47
• Kind of silly that they even implemented this feature in the first place since it only works if the value is 1. Waste of time ftw. Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 2:49

It now says "-8 characters left".

• This post has -1 votes. Commented Jul 2, 2012 at 23:21