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Message board > Members' Opinion Polls > Members' poll: Are hugs continuous or discrete? 
  

Are hugs continuous or discrete?
With valentines day just around the corner are hugs are discrete unit, such as a number of hugs? or are hugs a continuous variable, such as a period of hugs?
More hugs and less hugs  20%
More hugs and fewer hugs  53%
It doesn't matter but I want more hugs  27%
Total: 15 members' votes
by Swords - Tue 14th Feb 2012, 10:15pm
Thomas said: With valentines day just around the corner are hugs are discrete unit, such as a number of hugs? or are hugs a continuous variable, such as a period of hugs?
More hugs and less hugs: 22%
More hugs and fewer hugs: 44%
It doesn't matter but I want more hugs: 33%
Is this not clear from the presence of a plural? I'm trying to think of a case where it would be correct to have "less [pluralised noun]"
by Aaron - Tue 14th Feb 2012, 10:33pm
Hugs = discrete = fewer
Hugging = continuous = less
Any continuous variable can be broken up into discrete units; when talking about the variable in general "less" should be used but when using the units "fewer" should be used. This seems fairly obvious.
by Thomas - Wed 15th Feb 2012, 8:50am
Swords said: Is this not clear from the presence of a plural? I'm trying to think of a case where it would be correct to have "less [pluralised noun]"
less sheep, fewer sheep.
by Chris E - Wed 15th Feb 2012, 11:24pm
I think in "less sheep" the "sheep" is more closely related to the singular than the plural form of the discrete sense of the word.

I would suggest "data", which is the plural rather than the singular if treated as discrete, but is commonly used in a continuous sense (whereas the singular is not).

I think arguably a noun being used in a continuous sense simply doesn't have the singular/plural property. It probably does more usually match the singular form of the discrete sense - but maybe will more often match the plural form if the discrete sense refers to a very small object.
by Neil T - Thu 16th Feb 2012, 9:44pm
Swords - what about "A typical Oxford student has less brains than his Cambridge counterpart"?
by Swords - Fri 17th Feb 2012, 8:32pm
Neil T said: Swords - what about "A typical Oxford student has less brains than his Cambridge counterpart"?
I'd argue that in this context "brains" is a continuous noun meaning "intellect" rather than the plural of brain.

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