I wrote an article analyzing trade figures for 2019. Originally I wrote: "We can find that only the first 3 months have their export values bigger than their import values". Upon proofreading, I was suggested to rephrase the "first 3 months have" part, because I was told that a month cannot possibly "have" something as an object that belongs to it.

I want to check if my original expression sounded natural to the native Americans or English speakers.

As a side note, I noticed a native expression that goes: "The last 3 months have seen significant development in the housing market." Perhaps this is relevant to my question here. I thought if an action word ("seen") can come right after "3 months", the "3 months" here can be regarded as a subject. If a subject can have an object, so do "3 months".

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    If there's something I would change about your sentence, it would be to remove their. Of course a month can have something. Doesn't the 4th of July belong to July? Your second sentence is different, though. It is not suggesting that the last 3 months have had something, but rather that they have seen something. May 6, 2020 at 1:55
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    By the way, the second sentence is an example of personification. The author is not suggesting (and it would be incorrect to suggest) that the months have literally seen anything. It is an idiomatic way to express something the author and the target audience have witnessed occur over the course of those months. May 6, 2020 at 1:58
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    Not what you are asking about but "I was suggested to rephrase" is non-standard
    – Kevin
    May 6, 2020 at 14:25
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    Perhaps the 'their' is not necessary, but it sounds perfectly natural to my American English ears. May 6, 2020 at 14:37
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    April sees a boom in house sales. May 6, 2020 at 15:52

1 Answer 1


Yes, it's perfectly OK to say that a month has something. There is an old poem that we use to remember the number of days in the month: the first couple of lines are:

30 days hath September,
April, June and November...

Note that, when writing numbers that form a part of a sentence, we usually spell out numbers less than about twenty. Also, the word their isn't really required.

We can find that only the first three months have export values bigger than import values.

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    "Note that, when writing numbers that form a part of a sentence, we usually spell out numbers less than about 20." As a Native English speaker, I did not know that. You truly do learn something new everyday! May 6, 2020 at 2:01
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    Reading some time ago, I think it must have been in one of the two big guides - AP Style Book or Chicago Manual of Style, I saw the recommendation that one spell out numbers. Interesting. Found an online reference that mentioned both. According to this it's spell out up to nine, spell out casual expressions (AP), or spell out any number up to 100 if it's followed by hundred or thousand or million, etc. I'd been using the rule of spell out up to nine, but missed the other ones.
    – user114352
    May 6, 2020 at 2:18
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    It's interesting to know when to spell out numbers. I found an article of interest that digs a little deeper on this sub-topic as a reference for everyone: grammarly.com/blog/when-to-spell-out-numbers
    – Dean
    May 6, 2020 at 2:25
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    When I answered this question, I initially intended to write 'up to ten', but twelve is a definite candidate for writing as a word... and then fifteen... so I decided to err on the side of caution and put twenty. As @Yishmeray says, there are other cases, for example five thousand.
    – JavaLatte
    May 6, 2020 at 5:12
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    @Freeman. My 1991 Economist Style Guide says "Never start a sentence with a figure, write the number in words instead. Use figures for numerals from 11 upwards, and for all numerals that include a decimal point or fraction. Use words for simple numerals from one to ten, except: in references to pages; in percentages; and in sets of numerals some of which are higher than ten." So everyone here is more or less in agreement with The Economist. May 6, 2020 at 13:59

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