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Many physical units in German seem to have identical singular/plural forms. For example: 1 Meter, 2 Meter... At the moment the only exception that comes to mind are units of time "1 Sekunde, 2 Sekunden..." (and "Lichtjahr" which gramatically would be the same)

  • Is there a reason for this?
  • If I say "2 Meter", do I use the plural form of Meter?
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This is about countable vs. uncountable quantities. German speaking academics of the 19th century settled on treating all physical units uncountable. It makes some sense as most of these units are named after individual scienticists and there ain't more than one Newton. Meter and Gramm are uncountable just to fit the general rule.

It doesn't apply to time because people counted the time before. It doesn't apply to old measures as Meilen (miles) either, because people used that before.

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    Is 'Tonne' an old unit or an exception? Because it's 'eine Tonne, zwei Tonnen...' – Iris Jan 27 '17 at 5:27
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    Es ist eine weibliche Bezeichnung, die auf –e endet. Diese werden idR gebeugt (eine Meile, eine Tasse, eine Tonne). Im übrigen glaube ich nicht, dass diese Regeln erst seit Einführung des metrischen Systems gelten. Auch andere historische Einheiten, die zuvor verwendet wurden, wurden nicht gebeugt (Joch, Fuß, Pfund, letztlich auch Stück), außer sie waren weiblich auf -e (Elle). – Ingmar Jan 27 '17 at 5:57
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    On the other hand in English you do have 60 Watts and other plural forms of names. – user1583209 Jan 27 '17 at 8:26
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    @Iris: Tonne is an old unit. It was in use when scholars began to define old units in terms of their new units. – Janka Jan 27 '17 at 11:08
  • Are you sure "Meter" is uncountable? Because the Duden clearly says that the plural is also "Meter". Especially since it's "zwei Meilen", "zwei Lichtjahre" etc. – dirkt Jan 27 '17 at 17:34

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