Are grammatical mistakes a bug or not! It confuses me me (as I make the same mistakes myself). On the SO new questions list I see:

Negative one vote

The list is showing -1 as plural (-1 votes) but searching on Google I found Singular or Plural stating:

If the number one is used, whether it is +1/-1, the following noun will be singular. So it would be -1 apple. We’re talking grammar, not logic; and yes we say zero apples, probably because zero is thought of as a number that is not one, even though zero is neither singular nor plural logically.

and -1 is singular or Plural? on English StackExchange

I know this is not something major, but I thought it better to share this so it can be rectified.

-1 vote means only one person voted for him in negative (which surely be singular logically speaking). so you can say it like He got one vote against him. Here Negative is to show users agree or disagree to post. whether against or not (say positive or negative) one vote is singular.

  • 21
    Run. Don't wait. Run. Now!!: twitter.com/codinghorror/status/1165936105
    – Bart
    Jan 27, 2013 at 13:03
  • 1
    I also found this but still it doesn't stop me to post this :p as SO is organized by us, so its our duty :) Jan 27, 2013 at 13:04
  • 3
    Nobody cares about the fact that it should actually just say "-1 score"? There are not -1 votes on the question. It could have been voted for three times, +1 and -2, for example.
    – slhck
    Jan 27, 2013 at 14:25
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    "-1 vote means only one person voted for him in negative"...no, it doesn't. It means the overall score is -1. There could well be 99 positive votes and 100 negative ones. The "votes" should really be "score".
    – Bart
    Jan 27, 2013 at 15:38
  • GO JEFF! You have promised! And post the photo! meta.stackexchange.com/a/9694/171199
    – SPArcheon
    Jan 28, 2013 at 7:54
  • @Bart . No use. Already leaved a comment to Jeff, so now he knows
    – SPArcheon
    Jan 28, 2013 at 8:03
  • There are -1 votes on the question; this is no less correct than "score." We do the same kind of arithmetic with "dollars" and nobody complains. "Votes" does not mean "upvotes." (The plural is still fine though.). Jan 28, 2013 at 9:00
  • @EliahKagan - actually, since that is the sum of downvotes and upvotes, I belive that "score" is more correct. So if a change should be made it should be to the whole label, not the plural/singular form (that IMHO I even do not notice).
    – SPArcheon
    Jan 28, 2013 at 10:47

3 Answers 3


The highest voted answer on the English Stack Exchange question on this states:

As I said in answer to another question (about "0.25 mile" v/s "0.25 miles"), my preference is to use the singular only for the natural number 1: when you are counting something and the count is 1.

That is, if "minus" is conceivably an operator, as in "the band reunited, minus one member", you would use the singular. (The "one" there is a count of how many members were missing, so it takes the singular.) But if "-1" is just a numerical value, then (to me) the plural is preferable, as in "It was a cold day in winter, and the temperature was -1 degrees Celsius". This is similar to the usage "0.1 grams", IMHO. (Though what I'd actually write is "-1 °C", side-stepping the issue.)

They've already had this debate and this seemed to be the more popular viewpoint (indeed, it seems more natural to me personally as well). With that in mind, I don't see the point in changing it on Stack Exchange to what is the less popular view.

  • Hope I can make you understand my Point of View!!! -1 votes means only one person voted for him in negative which surely be singular. so you can say it like He got one vote against him. Here Negative is to show users agree or disagree to post. Jan 27, 2013 at 13:28
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    Hmm, is it actually -1 votes? Isn't it a -1 score?
    – Bart
    Jan 27, 2013 at 13:34
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    +1; "-1 votes" sounds more natural to me than "-1 vote". I vote to keep it as it is.
    – Mark Amery
    Jan 27, 2013 at 13:36
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    @Bart Yeah, that's the larger issue, the label isn't even technically correct to begin with :P
    – Tim Stone
    Jan 27, 2013 at 13:40
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    @TimStone I full expect someone to change it to "-1 scores" at some point. ;)
    – Bart
    Jan 27, 2013 at 13:42
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    @Bart Is that equivalent to -20 votes? Jan 28, 2013 at 14:57
  • @ZaheerAhmed "negative 1 votes", but "1 negative vote". Since the 'total' vote count is -1 (similar to "negative 1 dollars of profit" over "1 negative dollar of profit"), it should be "negative 1 votes" or "-1 votes".
    – Jeff
    Jan 30, 2013 at 2:01
  • So long as you support “+1 votes”, I see no problem here.
    – tchrist
    Jan 30, 2013 at 3:16

I see "votes" as being a label to the field (whose value happens to be "-1"), rather than the "-1" and "votes" being a single phrase.

So there's no problem.


I belive Jeff already knows. I don't belive he cares though (and I totally agree).

enter image description here

The benefit to fix this just do not motivate the cost I belive. Not that we should care, IMHO is a common workaround in programming to always use plural.

Small edit notice: I would have agreed if the question asked to change "votes" to "score" or "rating", since -1 is the current total, not a number of votes cast (you can have +99 - 100 and still a score of -1). That said, even that would probably require to much time for the benefit (trad: NO), unless we can somehow prove that new users really get confused by the wording. Anyway, changing just the plural/singular form IMHO is not required

  • "not confusing" and "high quality" is two different thing. I'm pretty sure that my last sentence is not confusing, but it's also not high quality. Personally, I'd like SO to be high quality.
    – Jeff
    Jan 30, 2013 at 2:04
  • @Jeff Point is - as far as I know - they don't have time/people to run after all those (minor) "bugs". So I belive that they should employ the staff resource to fix/change ecc other things that could give problems to the users, not to fix a letter that will just sit there. Maybee I am wrong and they have much more work power than I belive... but I don't belive we should give to much importance to an "S".
    – SPArcheon
    Jan 30, 2013 at 7:52
  • That's fair, I just wanted to make sure that we don't take the "functionality is the only important thing" nerd stereotype too far - I tend to agree with you on this particular point, but making sure that we're talking about the right thing (no great increase in quality) versus the wrong one (no great decrease in confusion) is important, I feel.
    – Jeff
    Jan 30, 2013 at 21:10
  • Sorry @Jeff - noticed your comment only now. Anyway, my point is that the "problem" isn't in the quality increase... problem is "do we really want the staff to 'lose time' on a not-killer issue while there are more urgent things at hand? Don't take me wrong, but if I was goind to decide "let's work on the plural issue or let's fix the autoclosing flag screen" I would have no dubt and chose the flag screen fix.
    – SPArcheon
    Feb 7, 2013 at 10:22

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