# 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. Aug 20, 2009 at 2:42
• Voting this up because this kind of stuff drives me batty. >.> Aug 20, 2009 at 5:36
• A great opportunity to promote english.stackexchange.com Sep 16, 2010 at 0:06
• It depends if its `-∞` or `-∞s`... 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! ;) 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 :( 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. Aug 20, 2009 at 3:07
• weird, i've never heard of -1 being singular. I would always say "negative one characters"
– Kip
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) 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. Aug 20, 2009 at 2:54
• Too esoteric? :) Just a suggestion to find the absolute value, and base plurality off of it. Aug 20, 2009 at 2:55
• Starts to make sense now, but it didn't with revisions 1-5 Aug 20, 2009 at 2:58
• Yeah; it was working inside my head...not as clearly when I put it out on the intarwebs. 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. 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. Aug 20, 2009 at 2:49

It now says "-8 characters left".

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