For example:

  • A: The worst thing about the film was its length.
  • B: The worst thing about the film was its shortness.

Which of the two is grammatically correct?


Are both sentences grammatically correct?

  • 1
    A marked form isn't necessarily ungrammatical. Are you asking about marked forms (per the title) or whether something is grammatical (per the body of your question)?
    – Lawrence
    Dec 25, 2017 at 13:03
  • Many adjectives and nouns that are used in measurements come in pairs, (e.g lenghth/shortness, tall/short) how we could use them.
    – user67116
    Dec 25, 2017 at 13:13

2 Answers 2


Many adjectives and nouns that are used in measurements comein pairs (e.g. tall/short,old/young, heavy/light,fast/slow). The word that is used for the ‘top’ end of the measurement scale canusually be used in anothersense, to talk about thequality in general. For instance, one can ask how long something is even if it is relatively short.Grammarians call these uses ‘unmarked’. So the correct answer should be: The worst thing about the film was its length.


Measurements normally use the high end of the scale to be expressed. We therefore say:

  • How long was the film?

We wouldn't say:

  • How short was the film?

unless we referred to a short film.

Same thing happens with height and width.

"length" is ambiguous: it can mean the condition of being long, or be synonymous (in the case of films) with "duration".

If you want to criticize the film for being too short, you can use (B) or:

  • C: The worst thing about the film was its short length/duration.


  • D: The worst thing about the film was that it was too short.
  • Possibly length/brevity.
    – user3169
    Dec 26, 2017 at 1:03
  • Yes, I thought about "brevity". Also "extreme shortness".
    – Gustavson
    Dec 26, 2017 at 1:07

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