Could you explain me please, why sometimes the word "mile" is used in singular, sometimes in plural, while in both cases it refers to several and not 1 mile.


They took part in a 26 mile long swimming race. After 12 miles he got tired.

Thanks in advance to those who can enlighten me!


3 Answers 3


Adjectives in English do not change according to the plurality of the word they modify. So it will be mile if it is used as an adjective, which it is below.

They took part in a 26 mile long swimming race.

It would take plural form if it was a noun.

I ran for 26 miles.


The race was 26 miles long.

To be, being a copular verb, is special, and I think what's happening here is that 26 miles is a predicate nominative and long is technically an adverb modifying was.


Miles is plural. (But we say 0.5 miles and not 1\2 mile, we say 1\2 a mile. Even though they are mathematically the same quantity. Because while saying “half a mile” or “quarter of a mile” we are referring to the quantity “one mile” first.)

We do say

It is miles to the next gas station.

because here, “is” refers to the object “gas station” and not miles.

Now while expressing conversions, even if it were kilometers we would say, 10 kms is 10,000 meters. But that doesn’t make it any less plural. Because “10 kms” here is being treated as one unit. E.g.: “10 miles is a long way to go” here as well “10 miles “ is being treated as one unit, “X is a long way to go”. Hence under such circumstances we tend to use “is”. In many other cases as well,

5 apples is all I need.
10 cases of wine should do.


    "They took part in a 26 mile long swimming race. After 12 miles he got tired."

The word "long" is confusing the issue, and it is superfluous. When removed, the answer is clear:

They took part in a 26-mile swimming race. After 12 miles, he got tired.

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