I found it confusing about the meaning between "the thousand ..." and "thousands of", are they of the same meaning?

For example, in this expression I've just read:

the thousand shifts and devices of which Hannibal was a master

Does "the thousand shifts" mean "one thousand of shifts" or "thousands of shifts"?

I prefer the latter to the former. Am I right?

  • 2
    I would say yes, I think you are right. In the sentence you quote, I think "thousand" is a figurative approximation rather than an exact number. I think a more common way of saying this sentence – originally written in an 1878 work – would be something more like: "the hundreds of shifts and devices of which Hannibal was a master."
    – J.R.
    Nov 4, 2013 at 1:41

1 Answer 1


Saying "the thousand [items]" implies approximately one thousand items. It does not necessarily mean that there are exactly one thousand items, but within the general area.

Saying "thousands of [items]" implies that there are literally multiple thousands of items. That is to say, there are anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 items, since "thousands of" is usually used with the lower end. (If you have more than that, such as 40,000 or 70,000, the phrase "tens of thousands" is generally used.)

Basically, "the thousand [items]" is less than "thousands of [items]".

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