19th and 20th centuries

The word “and” creates a plural here in English – you’re talking about more than one century, after all.

Dutch adopts a different mindset in such cases: 19th century is singular, 20th century is singular, so it’s negentiende en twintigste eeuw. Here are some examples from real life:

  • 19th and 20th century => should be centuries
  • class IIb and III => should be classes
  • in the metaphorical and literal sense => should be senses
  • found in the Service Calls and Workflow module => should be modules
  • (Op Frankrijk en Zweden na) With the exception of France and Sweden => should be exceptions

Note that there isn’t necessarily a grammatical error here. There could be a single module handling those two functions and that is how the English native speaker is likely to read it!

While we’re talking about centuries, a reminder that the ordinal number gets hyphenated on when the phrase is used as an adjective: an eighteenth-century drawing room, a twentieth-century invention. But that use of the hyphen will be another post later!

Prevalence: moderate. There are various issues with the use of plurals in Dutch and English that aren’t always easy to keep separate and classify, so it’s not easy to be categorical.
Frequency: medium-high. Liable to occur more than once in a text.
Native: no. This one seems to come from a Dutch mindset.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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