Roll one dice

Working on a problem today, I needed to know the probability of rolling the same number three times in a row on a 28-sided die. Because I’m interested in the current crop of generative AIs, I thought I’d pose that question:

When rolling a 28-sided die, what is the probability that I’ll roll the same number three times in a row?

Google Gemini’s response:

The probability of rolling any specific number on a 28-sided die one time is 1/28. Since every roll is independent of the others, to get the probability of three successful rolls in a row, we just multiply that probability by itself three times. Therefore, the probability of rolling the same number three times in a row is (1/28) * (1/28) * (1/28) = 1/784.

That answer is partially right, but catastrophically wrong. I’ll address that in a separate post.

Gemini provides a link, at the bottom of the response, that you can click if you want to double-check the response. In this particular case, that link performed a Google search on “Probability of rolling same number three times in a row on 28-sided die”. What I found curious was this message at the top of the results page:

Did you mean: Probability of rolling same number three times in a row on 28-sided dice

I was taught, and never questioned, that “dice” is plural. The singular is “die.” One die, two dice. Right? Isn’t that proper English? Why is Google asking me about rolling one dice? But I thought I’d check that out before ranting about improper language use.

Gemini, when asked “can the word “dice” be singular?”, responded with:

Yes, “dice” can be singular in modern English.

Traditionally, “die” was the singular form and “dice” was the plural. However, over time, “dice” has become acceptable for both singular and plural uses.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Technically: “Die” is the historical singular form.
  • Modern Usage: “Dice” is widely used for both singular and plural. This is considered grammatically correct by many dictionaries.
  • Nuance: Some people, especially in formal writing, may prefer “die” for the singular form to avoid confusion with the verb “to dice” (cutting food into cubes).

So, while “die” exists, “dice” is perfectly acceptable for singular use in most contexts.

What I learned from checking its references, after wading through some heated debate on the topic, is that people have been using “dice” to refer to a single die for more than 600 years. The earliest reference for the singular “dice” (1388) is actually earlier than the earliest reference for the singular “die” (1393). And although the formal definition in many dictionaries says that “dice” is plural and “die” singular, the use of “dice” as a singular noun continues to increase. “Die” is still more common, but “dice” is increasingly becoming accepted. I don’t know of any style manuals that specifically allow the singular “dice,” but many online dictionaries say that although “dice” can be singular or plural, “die” is the preferred singular.

In other words, language evolves. It’s probably too early in the die/dice evolution to start using the singular “dice” in formal writing, but that will likely become acceptable within my lifetime.

Drive language purists crazy: roll one dice.