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'Concrete numbers' are a type of phrase consisting of a number and a unit expressed with a noun, such as 'two metres', 'three apples' etc. Historically called numerus numeratus

Take '5 men', it does not definitely describe any group of men in existence, however it does indentify correctly the exact amount/particular measure type, a unique idea, Hence it may or may not denote a particular group of men depending on the context.

'5 men entered a bar, and played a game of darts'

This is therefore an indefinite description and follows the rules that it can describe something and denote it contextually.

However in some context it is treated as a phrase that unambiguously denotes the idea of amount of a certain type.

'The price is 5 dollars'

If '5 men' denoted the idea of that amount of men then it would be difficult to explain what an idea is doing entering a bar.

Why is it that these kind of phrases which seemingly is an indefinte description and describes (contextually it may denote the object being described) is seen as unambiguously denoting the abstract idea of the amount?

Using an indexical phrase like 'The Price' in 'The Price is 5 dollars' with something ('5 dollars') that is not a proper noun (or some other unambiguous denoting phrase) seems ungrammatical.

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    In English, five men or five meters is the number of men or meters, respectively, not the amount. Five pounds of coffee, that is an amount. Doesn't five meters or five kilos exist in your language? :)
    – Lambie
    Dec 16, 2022 at 14:55
  • why is 'five pounds of coffee' both an indefinite descriptor and a referring phrase for a particular amount?
    – Confused
    Dec 16, 2022 at 15:08
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    An amount of an uncountable noun and a number of a countable one.
    – Lambie
    Dec 16, 2022 at 16:28
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    5 meters can be width, height or length. five apples is not shiny apples. So you confusing me by saying: but 'five apples' can describe something but we strangely use this structure of phrase to refer to these concepts, I have no idea what you mean.
    – Lambie
    Dec 16, 2022 at 18:23
  • 4
    What’s the actual question here? Jan 14, 2023 at 11:42

1 Answer 1

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'5 men entered a bar, and played a game of darts'

'The price is 5 dollars'

You are pointing out that in the first, “5” may describe a real-world state of affairs - some men who really are walking into a bar.

In the second, you note that “5” is an amount, but it does not “determine” the noun “dollars” in the sense of implying they exist somewhere - if all dollars in the world vanished, the price of something could still be 5 dollars.

I think the number is not the factor causing this distinction. My guess is semantically, however the mind comprehends a number of something, it can happen independently of other aspects of meaning, such as, is it determined or undetermined? Is it in the physical world or an idea?

Those conditions can occur without numbers, and I don’t think numbers change them -

Men walked into a bar.

This could be interpreted as “some men” in certain contexts.

Dollars were found on the street.

It sounds like it had to happen in the real world.

The price of the goods is in men.

You have to pay in men, for the good. I think it is a “general noun”, it does refer to a concept, but it does not state that that object is currently existing (in some context, like, the world).

I think you are interested in the difference between abstract and concrete nouns but you think the number is what is responsible for conveying if something is abstract or concrete. But other noun attributes can be used in both cases too, like adjectives. I think the first is concrete more because of the verb “walked”, implying something sort of tangible or factual is occurring, even if it were a fantasy world, like “5 dollars walked into a bar.” The second is abstract more because of the context of “The price is…”. A price will always be abstract because it conveys a sort of condition to be met. You can state a condition and it does not presuppose that the condition can be met. So it doesn’t entail that any specific dollars exist in a specific place. It also is not important which dollars. It just (would) require something of that category. This is similar to any statement about an entire category: “Men are beautiful” - even if this is in an alternative world in which someone is inventing a concept for a fictional story, “men”, and announcing their characteristics.

My answer is not that deeply developed but I think you are interested in abstract vs. concrete nouns and you think the number is controlling that whereas I think they can actually be separated from each other.

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  • The concrete/abstract distinction is definitely a part of it, I just don't understand how you can say 'the price is x' where x isn't an explicit reference like 'that chair over there', it seems like an identity statement where an indexical phrase is being pointed to an object but '5 dollars', '5 men', due to the determiner '5' are both really descriptive phrases.
    – Confused
    Jan 15, 2023 at 13:39
  • Like if I were to say 'the issue is men' it is obvious that it means 'all men', however there exists no set of 'dollars' to be the price, what they mean is a sort of abstract concept that it needs to be dollars and there needs to be five of them.
    – Confused
    Jan 15, 2023 at 13:42
  • If I were to guess, we do this with 'abstract' 'nouns for ease, as financiers, scientists ect prefer to use a number and unit or a number and currency.
    – Confused
    Jan 15, 2023 at 13:44
  • It's no harder to say "the price is $5" than it is to say "the chair is green". Clearly the chair is real, but it is not the color green; this is a different construction. Be is the auxiliary for a lot of kinds of predicate constructions.
    – jlawler
    Oct 13, 2023 at 1:16

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