Date and Time: Plural or Singular?

Is the phrase “date and time” plural or singular?

If you Google this question, you’ll get a number of conflicting answers, so I will simply offer my best thoughts on the subject.

On the surface, when someone asks you to verify a date and time, or suggests one, it seems logical to some of us to say that “the date and time are” because they seem to be two separate items. Wouldn’t we say “the man and woman are…” or “the table and couches are…”?

But the phrase “date and time” is becoming a singular item in our thoughts and communications, and it’s fine now to say “the date and time is…”.

Think of it this way: The date is the broader term, and the time is a subset of the date; the time is set within the date. So we are expressing a single moment— a time that happens to be set within a certain date, and this is therefore a single entity.

English is such a fluid language, and we must realize we’re in the middle of a transition from a plural to a singular. (Some folks are used to considering them as two separate entities, so they will continue to use the plural. Be kind to them.)

But for the rest of us—the date and time is….!

My thanks to Clint Morgan and his daughter Michelle for this wonderful suggestion!

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Very

Very is a word commonly used when speaking, though it’s criminally overused. But we’re a dramatic culture, and its strong presence is here to stay.

Where we can go wrong is using it for words that can’t be qualified using that word. Aside from the mistake of pairing it with unique—which is important enough to warrant its own separate blog—very is often used with first and last. “The very first thing he did was…,” or “It’s in the very last chapter of the book.”

Think about it. What’s the difference between the very first and the first? The correct answer is “Nothing.” What’s the difference between the very last and the last? The answer is an even more emphatic: “Nothing!”

First and last can’t be described as somewhat first or extremely last. Can’t be done. If it’s first, it’s first. Same with last; if it’s last, it’s last.

So let’s leave these nice strong words alone, and let them stand up for their own meaning without any help from a word that shouldn’t precede them.

Insure and ensure

These two are used interchangeably at times, and we might be at the point where the distinction is losing all meaning in our everyday speech. (But for now, let’s at least try to keep the difference alive!)

To be more precise, we use insure when we mean ensure; it’s rarely the other way around.

The distinction is easy. To insure something is to put some insurance on it. We insure our houses, our cars, and other things of value. We even have life insurance, which is more like death insurance, but that’s another issue….

To ensure something is to make sure that it happens, to safeguard or guarantee an action.

  • We ensure someone that Grandma will behave this time by sitting next to her throughout the evening.
  • The company delivering our package tries to ensure that it will arrive on time.
  • Teenagers wanting to keep their privilege will ensure they are home by curfew.

Since the most common error is to say insure when we mean ensure, if we just keep using insure when we are referring to insurance, it will likely ensure a proper usage of these words.