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In this post, I read the following sentence. (The post is visible to Meta Stack Overflow 10K users and moderators.)

You've also got a 16 users ignoring you and still manage to consistently get enough 10k users to flag you.

I remember I have seen a similar sentence where a was used as in "a twenty cars."

Can a be used to mean about?

  • I don't remember the sentence, but it was about something involving cars (e.g. a crash). Take "The crash involved a twenty cars." as example, but I don't really remember that sentence to say "it was exactly like that." – kiamlaluno May 11 '13 at 7:22
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    "a" here could be either an undeleted letter from "about", which was deleted because the writer discovered that there were, in fact, exactly 20 cars, or a typo that should have "ca.", which means "about". That abbreviation isn't normally used in newspaper articles, though, unless it's in parentheses: "(ca. 20 cars)". – user264 May 11 '13 at 9:24
  • @snailboat: I don't know it, I'm sorry to say. – user264 May 11 '13 at 10:26
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It looks like a typo. It's definitely not standard, and I think it's ungrammatical.

The article a can't directly modify 16 users, so a 16 users must be part of a larger noun phrase. This means that 16 users must be a noun adjunct for a following head noun. However, the only choices for head are ignoring and you, and neither works very well. So, as far as I can tell, there's no way to make this sentence work in standard English.

I don't think it means "about", but the only way to be sure what they intended is to ask them.

  • Do you mean a phrase like "a 16 users group" and "a twenty cars crash"? – kiamlaluno May 11 '13 at 7:44
  • I do mean like those, but in both of those cases they would be singular: "a 16 user group" and "a twenty car crash". I'm struggling to think of a grammatical example where the word in that position is plural. I think it might only work if the adjunct is taken as a proper noun, like "I stayed at a Four Seasons hotel", in which case it's not really plural. – snailboat May 11 '13 at 7:52
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    I found some discussion on Wikipedia when I searched for plural noun adjuncts: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noun_adjunct#English – snailboat May 11 '13 at 8:58

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