I have posted the following question here; it took me a lot of time to isolate the problem, to format the question, to edit it and to discuss with commenters about it. I tried to understand why it was closed but no one responded.

Here is a copy of the invested question in case it gets automatically deleted so people could most likely respond in the future:

When people use the phrase one or more it can make a problem in a wider sentence;
For example, please consider:

I have one or more X

I grasp this as problematic because; as X is singular, either one has one X or two or more Xs

I have one or more Xs

I grasp this as problematic because if these are Xs (plural), it's not an X (singular).

A direct yet perhaps tiresome solution would be to instead say (which also solves a realism problem ["is it really true?" problem]):

I might have one X or two or more Xs (in my house)

Sadly (?) I never came across someone saying that.

This problem is not unique to English

This problem is not unique to English; for example, in modern Hebrew:

יש לי אחד או יותר חתול (Have me-indication one or more cat)
יש לי אחד או יותר חתולים (Have me-indication one or more cats)

I believe no one will use the first (singular) example, but people might use the second one, likely as a joke, because someone is expected to know how much cats (חתולים) that someone has in its courtyard.

Possible solutions for the "one or more" problem

1. Purposely avoiding one or more pattern

2. Not using singular phrases at all in general:

The Thai language for example, doesn't include singular nouns in general or by default unless a noun was explicitly described as singular, so in general every noun would be considered or alleged plural.

Sayings of a Thai immigration police official (paraphrases from QA session):

If you come to Thailands ; we have to take times to get the document - in one days, we had the case of extending visa over the above of five hundreds case ; in my divisions, we had a people, the immigration staff for working there, about ten peoples ; that the reasons (one reason) ; the questions, are the sames - I think, the next question and the next question and the next question, they got answers in the sames way.

This is but one example of hundreds I came across in about one year in Thailand; a Thai person can speak near fluent English and "mistake" only in this point several times; I would die with the opinion that this is caused by a cognitive bias from the plural default pattern of Thai for nouns, and nothing else.


  • This problem doesn't exist with two or more and so forth because any example would be generally plural

My problem

I grasp none of the "possible solutions" above as good to deal with the one or more problem (or "dilemma").

My question

Is there a "one or more" problem in linguistics and if so how was it solved or how might it be solved?

My question here

Is "one or more" numerical problem that exists at least in two languages really "language-specific"?

| |
  • For purpose of Linguistics, many European languages can be considered the same in many respects. – vectory Feb 11 at 20:42

Probably your premise is just wrong: There is no "one or more" problem. There is a kind of pattern and different languages have developed (probably) different strategies to deal with it. For instance, in German the pattern demands the plural, as seen in this query to the CLARIN Federated Content search on a large number of corpora


One example shows an interesting alternative

Ums Zusehen ging es auch auf der Trabrennbahn Karlshorst : den Pferden nämlich bei einem oder mehreren der 13 Rennen um den Großen Preis von Karlshorst .

"... one or more of the 13 races" ..., a partitive construction after the phrase "one or more".

It seems that English is special in this respect, in Earlier Modern English this query


finds (among others, featuring plural only or a partitive construction) results like

For Remedy whereof it enacts , That all Lords of Manours may , by writing under their Hands and Seals , authorize one or more Game - Keeper , or Game - Keepers , within their Manours ; who being so authorized , may seize such Nets , or other Engines , as shall be used by any Person or Persons prohibited to keep or use the same .

(Old Bailey Corpus)

where the head noun appears both in the singular and the plural, connected by or.

| |
  • Hello, thank you for the nice answer, i think the English solution is a failure. – user24141 Jan 25 at 4:45

It appears to be language-specific. The data comes from one language (the Hebrew data is uninterpretable to a general audience of linguists). If you have evidence that there is (a) a puzzle (unclear what you are asking) and (b) that multiple languages demonstrably have it, then it might be on topic.

| |
  • Hello ; I don't understand your answer. Any linguist can ask a fellow linguist specializing in Hebrew or run this text in Google translate --- why would I lie that the Hebrew text says what I said it says?... – user24141 Jan 23 at 18:28
  • Why would you ask a general linguistics SE a question that requires reading knowledge of Hebrew letters? The burden is on you to propose an interpretable question. – user6726 Jan 23 at 18:36
  • User, with that approach, every user should be able to read every letter presented in sessions in the site, no?... – user24141 Jan 23 at 18:37
  • When linguists talk about lesser known languages (and yes, Hebrew falls in this category) they provide something called a gloss and a transliteration. – jk - Reinstate Monica Jan 24 at 14:20

You must log in to answer this question.