...many a woman, especially if she/they...

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Senior Member

If I word something using the "many a" plural, how do I continue the sentence? Example:

He courted many a woman at the beach, especially is she/they already had company.
  • Danster

    English - England
    I'd use they:
    He courted many a woman at the beach, especially if they already had company.

    I only know that because "she" sounds wrong to my (native) ears. Sorry I can't explain exactly why!


    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi susanna

    Unlike Danster, I'd vote for "she", on the grounds that "many a ...", although notionally plural, is used with a singular verb.

    You could use the gender-neutral pronoun "they", but I don't think I would here, because "many a" - other than in set expressions - sounds slightly formal to me.


    New Member
    India - Telugu
    To my understanding:

    "He courted many woman at the beach, especially is they already had company." plural

    "He courted many a woman at the beach, especially is she already had company." singular

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    When "many a [singular noun]" is the subject it is correctly used with singular concordance:
    "Many a woman has a past, but I am told that she has at least a dozen, and that they all fit." —Oscar Wilde

    So I agree with Loob's point in general, but I also agree with Danster that it sounds odd here. I think, however, that this is because there is a conflict in the statement. "Many a..." is indefinite and general, but by using "especially if" you are making the subject particular. You might get round it by breaking with "many a..." by using a pronoun that doesn't directly refer to it, e.g. "those":

    "He courted many a woman at the beach, especially those [women] who already had company."

    You might also consider not using "many a..." at all, because I think you are trying to fit it where it does not really belong.


    Senior Member
    Thank you all for your great comments! I love the suggestion to use "those" and it's always good to see an Oscar Wilde quote:). As for formal or less so . . . sometimes I feel "many a" sounds right, particularly if the tone of the narrator changes to more sarcastic, for instance, about someone's exploits.
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