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I know times in four times five is generally classified as a preposition[1], but I think it is better classified as either a postposition or a conjunction. In the multiplication four times five, four is the multiplier (agent) and five is the multiplicand (patient), which is in the opposite order of the addition four plus five, where four is the augend (patient) and five is the addend (agent). You can classify plus as a preposition because the operation is to add five to four and plus five fits it. But in the multiplication four times five, the operation is to multiply five by four, and times five doesn't fit it; rather, four times is a unit representing the operation. In addition, etymologically, it is definitely four times that is a meaningful unit, like in four times faster, four times as fast, etc. - TAKASUGI Shinji (talk) 07:00, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

The two are not the same. The times in four times faster is a noun. It is equivalent to four miles further.
Conjunctions join constituents of various sizes, but minimally, they join clauses. Clearly, times does not join clauses.--Brett 11:33, 28 June 2010 (UTC)
Thank you for your comment. We have talked about it at Wiktionary:Tea room/2010/March#times. Our conclusion was that binary operators are conjunctions. Currently, we categorize times in one times one as a conjunction, and that in four times faster as a noun. - TAKASUGI Shinji (talk) 23:02, 28 June 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I've read the discussion, but the conclusion was far too hasty. What do you say to the points I raised above?--Brett 00:39, 29 June 2010 (UTC)
We classify and in two and three makes five as a conjunction. There is no other class for a word that combines two noun phrases of the same level. What do you want exactly? - TAKASUGI Shinji (talk) 00:54, 29 June 2010 (UTC)
The original, preposition, was correct. Prepositions do exactly what you say: combine two NPs at the same level. Yes, the conjunction and works here, but and, as with all other conjunctions, also links clauses.--Brett 11:07, 29 June 2010 (UTC)
You can't use times as a preposition modifying a verb. In addition, a preposition doesn't combine two NPs at the same level. A in B, A of B, A from B are all kind of A (i.e. A is a head). You and me is not a kind of you; four times five is not a kind of four (i.e. there is no head). - TAKASUGI Shinji (talk) 13:16, 29 June 2010 (UTC)

I don't know what you mean about preposition modifying a verb. Do you mean a complement or adjunct ("adverbial")? Can you give me an example?

I see now what you mean about "at the same level". But what evidence is there that the multiplier and multiplicand are indeed at the same level? This is pretty tough to prove. If you say four groups of five, now you clearly have different levels though the meaning is the same.

I don't think your claim holds that A prep B necessarily results in a kind of A relationship. Are you going to extend your conjunction argument to by (e.g., a four by six tatami room) or in (e.g., he has a one in seven chance)? What about four pens among eight of us is not enough. Is this a kind of pen?

Admittedly, times is an odd preposition. It almost certainly can't be fronted, for example, and is almost never a predicative complement (but such use is attested: Everything I've felt that was very sensitive and positive before is times ten.) But I think it's an odder conjunction.

I think plus exists both as preposition and as a conjunction, at least in an informal style (e.g., It takes a lot less sweat , plus I can haul as much gear as I want.)--Brett 14:46, 29 June 2010 (UTC)

Mathematically, times is a binary operator (of course), and the nearest linguistic equivalent would be conjunction. And combines two words or clauses in a slightly vague way; times combines two words or phrases in a more precise way. Your example above (times ten used times as a verb (as an informal shorthand for multiplied by), just as your plus is an informal shorthand for in addition or also. Dbfirs 12:08, 4 July 2010 (UTC)
But multiplied by looks very much like a preposition (or what we call a preposition when assigning POS headers here on enwikt): cf. apart from and up against. So does in addition to: cf. at peace with and on the heels of.​—msh210 (talk) 12:15, 4 July 2010 (UTC)
Sorry: you said "in addition to or also", not "in addition to". But of course in addition and also only work for plus in the sweat-gear sentence, not in plus' 'normal' use.​—msh210 (talk) 16:05, 4 July 2010 (UTC)

Verb use[edit]

The expression 'times' being used for multiplication is quite common, yet I notice an increasing use of the expression "times less". To me it seems silly and unnecessarily long, due to the more efficient expression of verbal fractions. For example instead of "more than seven times less" you can say "less than a seventh". It also makes expressions like 'less than six times less' pretty confusing for readers.

While I dislike this form of speech, 1.6 million google results tell me that it is pretty frequent, should this be explored? 08:11, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

I was just thinking about this the other week. I was wondering what exactly people meant by "[n] times less", and wanted to compare journal articles with hard numbers with news articles that quoted them with "[n] times less" (or actual numbers in studies to the abstracts with "[n] times less"), so as to figure out what the phrase is being used to mean. Unfortunately, I hadn't the time then, and still don't.​—msh210 (talk) 15:09, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

Tea room discussion[edit]

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The following discussion has been moved from Wiktionary:Tea room.

This discussion is no longer live and is left here as an archive. Please do not modify this conversation, but feel free to discuss its conclusions.

Hello. I have a question on the classification of the word times as in four times five is twenty. Please read Talk:times#Preposition?. It seems to me it is not a preposition, even though many dictionaries say so. What do you guys think? - TAKASUGI Shinji (talk) 00:50, 25 March 2010 (UTC)

  1. At en.wikt we follow CGEL and others in not making a PoS distinction between preposition and postposition. Thus, in principle, we could have "postpositioned prepositions" or "postpositive prepositions". (CGEL cites the pronunciation of preposition in support of its position.) It is ultimately a matter of our presentation policy for English entries, not scholarly taxonomy.
  2. I have no basis for an opinion on the "conjunction" possibility, but, given the semantics of "times" (and "plus"), the roles of agent and patient seem interchangeable (for both). DCDuring TALK 12:22, 25 March 2010 (UTC)
Okay, so the distinction between prepositions and postpositions is meaningless here. The basis for the conjunction was that some binary operators are classified as conjunctions, such as or in Boolean logic. - TAKASUGI Shinji (talk) 12:38, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
The OED gives it as a regular verbs: we lack timeses, timesing and timesed. Mglovesfun (talk) 12:44, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
All but one of the six dictionaries I have looked at call it a preposition. Cambridge Advanced Learners calls it a preposition, a predeterminer, and an adverb, more or less following CGEL. Though we do have determiners, we don't have predeterminers as a PoS category. DCDuring TALK 17:49, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Thank you guys for your responses. The two arguments of times are not interchangeable in some contexts such as matrices and ordinals. Anyway, I'd like to know the native speakers' intuition on times. Which analysis of four times five is most natural to you, (1) four is modified by times five, (2) four times modifies five, or (3) they are inseparable. Since we don't say faster times five but say five times faster, the analysis 2 seems most natural to me... - TAKASUGI Shinji (talk) 05:41, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
As a naive native speaker I don't have to give the matter any thought and, accordingly, hadn't. As a fan of logic and mathematics, I view words expressing mathematics as approximations to the Platonic reality of axiom systems rather than as following the grammar of the language generally. Thus, my intuition is quite probably not representative. It favors option 3, inseparability, which, I suppose, argues for "conjunction" as PoS. DCDuring TALK 11:34, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
Mglovesfun has changed the classification of times from a preposition to a verb [2]. He has also created the pages timeses, timesing, and timesed. Does the verb to times really exist? - TAKASUGI Shinji (talk) 02:35, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
It will take a bit of work to find the examples. But I have certainly heard, and used, "times" as a verb. "If you times 6 by 7 you get 42" is not uncommon. -- ALGRIF talk 15:03, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
But having said that, I think it was precipitous to remove the "preposition" PoS. I would lean towards "conjunction" as the probable PoS. It is tempting to think of a "verb", for the similarity with divided by, but then it would be "6 timesed by 7", wouldn't it? What is the general consensus for plus and minus? Preposition or conjunction? The grammatical usage is the same AFAIKS. -- ALGRIF talk 15:19, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
Thank you. So the verb times meaning to multiply really exists. But times in four times five cannot be a verb. Speaking of plus and minus, are they the same as times? We also have unary operators plus and minus of the positive and negative signs, and there is certainly a linguistic confusion between the positive sign and addition, and the negative sign and subtraction. - TAKASUGI Shinji (talk) 02:55, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
The verbs to times, to plus and to minus exist, but are considered colloquialisms by mathematicians. I think conjunction is the nearest linguistic equivalent to binary operator. Dbfirs 14:50, 5 April 2010 (UTC)
I agree. Mathematically speaking, binary operators should be classified as conjunctions, since four times five is neither four nor five. It is like and in you and me, which is not just you, nor just me. On the contrary, four times faster is a kind of faster, just like much faster, and I still think times in that case is a postposition. - TAKASUGI Shinji (talk) 04:16, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Based on the discussion above, I propose that the readings of binary operators (at least plus, minus, and times) be classified as conjunctions, even though many sources classify them as prepositions. I don't know what you think about other binary operators that have a grammatical structure, such as divided by and to the power of. - TAKASUGI Shinji (talk) 23:23, 23 April 2010 (UTC)

times more[edit]

Contrast to times less, both are things I have seen used a lot, and I would like to, yet know not, how to define them.

For example "twenty apples is ten times more apples than two". Or "the man with 3 pears has 3 times less pears than the man with 9.". I personally detest the latter and see the 'more' in the former as unnecessary. Yet these propogate.

Example: "But studies have shown that non-citizens born in Mexico but living in America are eight times less likely than male U.S. citizens to be incarcerated."

I assume that to mean 1/8 the percentage, or 1/8 the net number or something like that. So if it were 40 males per 1k US citizens were incarcerated, 5 males per 1k for illegal immigrants? Or in net numbers, if 40k citizens were incarcerated in Texas, 5k illegal immigrants were incarcerated?

I speak not for the validity of Cracked's claim but rather whatever context (percentage or net) it is used, that the phrase probably implies some sort of fraction. Etym (talk) 07:52, 4 July 2012 (UTC)

It's hard to tell what exactly it is you are asking. But the usage you are talking about is documented in time#Noun, sense 5: ratio of comparison. --Jmk (talk) 11:02, 8 April 2014 (UTC)