In the first Mishna on Mesechta Bava Kama Daf סא עמוד ב (https://www.sefaria.org/Bava_Kamma.61b?lang=he), there is a מחלוקת about how far does a fire have to pass in order to be פטור.

When רבי עקיבא states his opinion he says "50 אמה", not "50 אמות? Why does he not write "אמה" in plural form?


2 Answers 2


It's simply quite normal in Hebrew. The same thing happens biblically, see eg Genesis 6:15.

The rule is outlined by Gesenius here.

A similar, although not identical, phenomenon also exists in English: a 16-tonne weight, a 14-foot wooden table...

  • Would you by any chance know why specifically only by Genesis 6:15 it's written in singular form, but in many other places it's written in plural form? Commented Apr 23, 2023 at 19:01
  • but in the same Mishna that I asked the question on it says right before: "רבי אליעזר say 16 אמות! In plural form, which is over 11!? Commented Apr 23, 2023 at 19:09
  • @VeryCuriousJew As Gesenius says, from 11-19, the noun ‘cubit’ “sometimes” takes the singular. Hebrew isn’t nearly as regular a language as you might suppose!
    – Zarka
    Commented Apr 23, 2023 at 19:42
  • I think it's that anything over ten, it can go either way. Arbaim shana akut b'dor; arbaim yom ...
    – Shalom
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 13:41
  • In the Mishkan you'll find eser amos but chamesh esrei ama
    – Shalom
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 13:42

Whenever the Torah is talking about a multiple of 10 (10, 20, etc. 100, etc. 1000, etc.) it's written in singular form. But when it's talking about any other #, than it's in plural form!

  • 2
    What about חמש עשרה אמה in Gen 7:20 and Ex 38:14,15?
    – magicker72
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 2:43
  • I disagree that finding counter examples disproves this point! No klal in Torah has zero exceptions!!! (paradox intended). However, I do request that @Very Curious Yid gives a source for their klal
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 14:51
  • @RabbiKaii "I disagree that finding counter examples disproves this point!" Non of the previous comments are saying they do. As the answer doesn't deal with, nor acknowledges their existence, somebody (at least in the comments) should.
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 17:43
  • @TamirEvan there might be thousands of counter examples, what are we achieving by listing them here? Honest quesiton
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 17:52
  • @RabbiKaii (I get suspicious when someone make a point of saying "honest question" about what they ask.) When I started compiling my first comment (now deleted), magicker72's comment had yet to appear, and by the time I came to post mine, and saw he had brought some of the same examples as I intended, I quickly edited mine accordingly and posted it (as I became busy with other things). If you're so bothered with there being 2 comments covering 4 counter examples, mine could be superfluous, so I'll delete it. here, done.
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 18:48

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