Mile or Miles?

I use this phrase often in reports I write during my work day.  I won't tell you which I use, but I would like the answer, if you don't mind:

The sign was 0.05 mile from the house.

or

The sign was 0.05 miles from the house.

I look forward to your replies.  Thanks!
Paul

Original Post

Hello, Paul, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange!

It's obvious to me, from an intuitive standpoint as a native speaker, that the plural is needed, even though the distance is less than one mile: "The sign was 0.05 miles from the house."

I had hoped to be able to substantiate that with reference to a revered grammatical work; however, after spending an hour going through about 20 grammar books, I haven't found anything.

I am done searching for now. It is not a satisfying way to spend an unpaid evening, especially since the answer is already obvious to me, and Wikipedia even confirms it:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plural

I have most of the grammar references listed in the bibliography of that article and didn't find the topic covered in them. Maybe if I spent 6 hours more on the project I'd find a better reference for you.

I'd like to add two points in closing. First, we would use the singular in "The sign was five hundredths of a mile from the house." Second, if you abbreviate ("0.05 mi."), you can avoid the problem.

It is an interesting topic! It might be called a grammatical paradox. ♣

 

I certainly appreciate the time you put into this.  I have always agreed that miles would be the intuitive answer; however, I am a scientist writing scientific professional opinions for clients, and as we both agree, miles is not factually correct when dealing with a fraction of a mile.  I will admit I have written it both ways, but had not decided which way was satisfying to me as a writer.

I too spent way too much time researching this prior to posting here, and I should have mentioned that to save you some time.  I sincerely apologize.

Unfortunately, abbreviation is out of the question, as we do not abbreviate anything in our professional reports, including Street, Boulevard,... well, you get the idea.

Thanks again for your unpaid effort.  I believe in karma (or the doctrine of inevitable consequence!)

Odaat posted:

I have always agreed that miles would be the intuitive answer; however, I am a scientist writing scientific professional opinions for clients, and as we both agree, miles is not factually correct when dealing with a fraction of a mile. 

I respect your opinion. You don't actually say it, but I assume you mean to imply that you think "0.05 mile" in a sentence like "The sign was 0.05 mile from the house" is grammatically correct. It is obviously correct when functioning attributively, as in "It is a 0.05 mile stretch of sidewalk."

I think the question of the grammatical (as opposed to the mathematical) correctness of "0.05 mile" in "The sign was 0.05 mile from the house" comes down to how "0.05 mile" is pronounced, in speech or just in thought. If pronounced "five hundredths of a mile," it is correct. If pronounced "point zero five mile," it is (to my ears) ungrammatical.

A somewhat similar phenomenon occurs in technical linguistic writing, where "NP" is used to refer to a noun phrase. Interestingly, some writers use the article "a" with it ("a NP"), and others use "an" with it ("an NP"). It's a question of whether one hears or says "NP" as "en pee" or "noun phrase." ♣

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