undermine the past 50 years of gains


Senior Member
I wonder why not has written as "undermine the gains of the past 50 years"? You destroy gains, not destroy times - you are not a time shatterer, after all, because you cannot destroy times even though you can wreak havoc: hurricane, flood, earthquake, tsunami etc.

Thanks in advance

The Lancet Countdown tracks progress on health and climate change and provides an independent assessment of the health effects of climate change, the implementation of the Paris Agreement,1 and the health implications of these actions. It follows on from the work of the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change,2 which concluded that anthropogenic climate change threatens to undermine the past 50 years of gains in public health, and conversely, that a comprehensive response to climate change could be “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”.

-The Lancet

  • Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    In the phrase "undermine the past 50 years of gains", the object of the verb is not the years; it's still the gains that are being undermined, even though you might at first analyze the grammar differently because you think you see a prepositional phrase "of gains".
    You need to think of "past 50 years of" as being an adjectival phrase modifying the noun "gains". It acts as a quantifier, telling us how much worth of gains is being undermined.
    In fact, it might be a good idea to add an apostrophe: "the past 50 years' {worth} of gains".

    Your alternative suggestion is an excellent one, but there is nothing wrong with the original, which means exactly the same.
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