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30 minutes parking?

A Japanese friend asked me why some signs say 30 minute parking and not 30 minuteS parking, which he expected would be the case.

I was at a loss. I couldn’t come up with any other examples of this, either. What is this phenomenon called? Any rationale for why we do it this way?


  • January 21, 2005
  • Posted by jroo
  • Filed in Grammar

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It is quite frequent. Offhand, the general rule appears to be that when a number of minutes (or in fact ANY unit of measurement) is being used as an adjective, "minute" is singular.


24-hour fast;
the 4-minute mile;
a 15-minute break.

Or, with non-time-related units of measurement:

A 100-metre run;
A 20-mile hike;
A 5-ton truck.

dave January 22, 2005, 3:42am

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30-minute parking says to me that parking [is allowed for a] 30-minute [period].

While you can run a four-minute mile then have a 15-minute break, you can also hand in your two weeks' notice and take 4 hours' rest. Early Modern English allowed for other variants on this, such as two hours' traffic of the stage.

Persephone Imytholin January 22, 2005, 12:48pm

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In the examples you just gave, "weeks" and "hours" were functioning as nouns rather than adjectives.

dave January 22, 2005, 1:40pm

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The point was to show that constructions using plural forms also appear.

Persephone Imytholin January 22, 2005, 5:47pm

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for those are confused the ' in the hours' show possession

ivy January 26, 2005, 7:00pm

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As long as we use the hypen after the quantity, we need to use the unit of measurement (time,length,etc) in the singular form.

egs: 30-year-old man; 30-minute parking

Or, 30 years' of age; 30 minutes' parking in the plural form without the hyphen.

naeboo~ February 9, 2005, 10:15am

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Nice comment Naeboo but please don't put apostrophes at the end of plural nouns.

Gerry Merchant March 8, 2005, 2:21pm

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Actually Naeboo's first example is incorrect, but his second example is correct.

speedwell2 March 8, 2005, 2:27pm

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the examples are all correct.please do some research before correcting. thank you.

naeboo~ May 9, 2005, 3:19pm

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i think the apostrophes at the end of plural nouns of measurement are quite acceptable too,gerry.

naeboo~ May 9, 2005, 3:21pm

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I disagree, naboo--the apostrophes have no place there. The apostrophes in such a spot would imply a possessive ownership, which is not the case. What are your thoughts on why to include them?

The hyphens are correct in my book.

Sarah May 9, 2005, 11:58pm

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the apostrophes being there do not mean there had to be some possessive connection to the object in discussion. they are mere illustration of the units of measurement.

that's what i have been taught to use anyways. and wld continue to do so. :)

naeboo~ May 10, 2005, 5:23am

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maybe i'm wrong. please someone enlighten the legit reason why the apostrophes shldnt be there?

naeboo~ May 10, 2005, 5:26am

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This explains some of the instances when apostrophes are used in relation to measurement:

This explicitly states it's for SOME cases only:

This adds that minute or prime notation may sometimes require an apostrophe.

Those are just the first rules I googled and found. Do they make a convincing case for you?

Are you from the U.S.? Maybe it's a regional preference baffling us?

sarah May 11, 2005, 1:08am

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Yes     No