# Several number of something or Several numbers of something?

In the following sentence:

We study the cost in function of the occupied space, for several number of potatoes and bananas.

I don't know if I should write number or numbers.

• Several is only used with plural countable nouns. In this case what you appear to mean is not numbers but quantities. Numbers are merely the tokens employed for measuring quantities. Apr 23, 2014 at 12:16

I assume the intended meaning here is costs were studied for various different quantities (of potatoes and of bananas). So numbers should be pluralised (since there are several of them).

1: ...for several numbers of potatoes and bananas

The problem is that in such contexts, several normally means a number of (each of those definitions cites the other term as a synonym). So to the native ear OP's construction sounds very much like...

2: ?...for a number of numbers of potatoes and bananas

Historically speaking, several originally meant various, different, separate, but although strictly speaking, it's the meaning OP intends, that sense is uncommon (and rather dated) today. So it would be far better to rephrase as...

3a: ...for several different numbers of potatoes and bananas
3b: ...for various different numbers of potatoes and bananas
3c: ...for a variety of different numbers of potatoes and bananas
3d: ...for a range of different numbers of potatoes and bananas
3e: ...for different numbers of potatoes and bananas
3f: ...for different quantities of potatoes and bananas
3g: ...for different amounts of potatoes and bananas
3h: ...for various different quantities of potatoes and bananas
etc., etc.

The choice between those alternatives (and more) is really just a matter of style. Personally, I'd probably go for the highlighted one, to get as far away as possible from the awkward number of numbers.

First, you need to decide what it is you want to communicate.

Normally, numbers would be the correct term in your sentence. Rather than numbers, however, what you need is a different term. I suggest the word quantity or the word amount.

Since the subject of your "study" is the cost of devoting a given space to the storage of potatoes and bananas, a better worded sentence would be as follows:

The focus of our study is the cost of devoting a portion of our space to varying amounts of potatoes and bananas.

Or,

We want to study the cost of devoting a portion of our space to varying quantities of potatoes and bananas.

Or,

Since space equals money, we want to study the cost of storing varying quantities of two items, potatoes and bananas.

I am assuming that as both the weight of potatoes and bananas increases, the cost of the space devoted to those two items increases. Ten tons of potatoes and ten tons of bananas take up more space and cost more money per square foot, than five tons of each. Your study is to determine the ideal amount of space to devote to those two items. In other words, you are looking for the most cost-efficient way of storing the potatoes and bananas.

• You repeated "quantity" for your suggested alternatives in the second paragraph (I expect the second occurrence should have been amount or similar). Apr 23, 2014 at 13:35
• @FumbleFingers: Careless mistake. Too little sleep last night is my excuse. I also left in the OP's version of the sentence (now excised), which I often do so that I needn't keep scrolling up to the top of the page to remind myself of the wording of the OP's question. Scrolling is just so hard! The sheer effort is so enervating! Oh, and having to click one's mouse more than once . . .. Ridiculous. Think of the strain on my right index finger. Shouldn't we be able to click just once? Think of the time we'd save. Those clicks add up. Why, I could save maybe a second or two each week. Don Apr 23, 2014 at 17:25
• Ah. Well if you're feeling refreshed and ready to do some more "fine-tuning", you might want to rephrase, retract, or explain that "per square foot" bit. I'd have thought economies of scale should mean that the cost per cubic foot would be less for larger quantities. It's the same with mouse-clicks. If you need to generate huge numbers of clicks, invest in a mouse with an "auto-repeat" function, and save all that much-needed finger energy for more useful things like cleaning out blocked nasal passageways! Apr 23, 2014 at 17:47
• @FumbleFingers: Knowing the difference between square feet and cubic feel is beyond my pay grade. What do I know? When I see real estate signs with "office space for rent" on them, I seem to recall the sign says something like "1500 square feet available for Zone X occupancy." Again, that's if memory serves . . .. Apr 23, 2014 at 19:07