# Thread: many + a + something

1. ## many + a + something

Hello,

What's your attitude to the following way of expressing the plural form:

1) How many a story you have already told me!
2) Where did you find so many a mushroom?

I have read the other day that "many + a + something" means the same as "many + something in the plural". Is it really so? How often is such a construction used?

Thanks

2. ## Re: many + a + something

Yes, it is so. It's widely used and accepted but "many + plural" is used more often. "Many a..." is literary.

3. ## Re: many + a + something

Originally Posted by milan2003_07
Hello,

What's your attitude to the following way of expressing the plural form:

1) How many a story you have already told me!
2) Where did you find so many a mushroom?

I have read the other day that "many + a + something" means the same as "many + something in the plural". Is it really so? How often is such a construction used?

Thanks

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Milan,

(1) Yes, I believe that you are correct:

Many a man = Many men.

It is a very formal and literary form. And very beautiful!!!

(2) But I do not think that it is proper for your example sentences.

Why not? Because I think that usually (???) it is used in a

negative sense:

Many men have learned never to tell their wives the truth if their wives ask, "Am I too fat?"

or

Many a man has learned never to tell his wife the truth if his wife asks, "Am I too fat?" (One book explains that "many a" emphasizes the individual man.)

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

P.S. Many a non-teacher has given the wrong answer!!!

4. ## Re: many + a + something

Thanks!!! Why only in negative sentences? Does this construction sound wrong in positive ones?

5. ## Re: many + a + something

Originally Posted by milan2003_07
Thanks!!! Why only in negative sentences? Does this construction sound wrong in positive ones?
I am trying to find the answer. Hopefully, a teacher will answer.

6. ## Re: many + a + something

I have to disagree with TheParser. The construction is used without negation too. (If that's what TheParser meant by "negative sense".)

Some quotes:

Many a faithful subject died to save His sov'reign's life: I would do more, I'd die To save thy honour.
Alexis Eustaphieve, 1812

The darkness of the night now momently increased, so that all around seemed girt with one huge and shadowy forest, through whose masses the eye could not pierce, though imagination found food to shape many a wild phantasy
Samuel B. H. Judah, 1827

Benito would never see Antonio's mare, the little yellow one, that he did not let fly his heels at her; and she was as afraid, at sight of him, as a cat is at a dog. Many a time I have laughed to see it.
Helen Hunt Jackson, 1884

The Master loved his flowers. Many a time the Master would touch them gently with the tips of his thin fingers, and the Master could not bear to see them die.
Walter D. Edmonds, 1933

should she slip into his bed? She had seldom done this down the years; mostly a long time ago, after too much to drink or an evening of flirting with someone else's husband. Pug took her rare advances as great compliments. He looked handsome and sweet. Many a breach between them had quickly closed with lovemaking. Yet she hesitated.
James Jones, 1978

Shelby McIntyre had been fixing up her deceased mother's house for months, but she'd been able to drive up to Virgin River from Bodega Bay nearly every weekend through the summer to ride. And her Uncle Walt had paid many a visit to her to oversee renovation work that he'd personally contracted.
Robyn Carr, 2009

7. ## Re: many + a + something

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Thanks a MILLION for those great quotes. But

those quotes seem -- to me -- to have a negative sensibility (whatever that means!!!).

Many a subject DIED; many a wild PHANTASY; I have LAUGHED [in derision]; to see them [the flowers] DIE; Many a BREACH.

It does seem that "usually" MANY A has a negative background. But certainly NOT

always. I found this positive example:

Many a citizen is studying the national candidates these days.

(Source: Dos, Don'ts & Maybes of English Usage by Mr. Theodore M. Bernstein.)

On the other hand, I would consider this to give off a negative "feeling":

"Full many a flower is born to blush UNSEEN." -- Mr. Thomas Gray, the famous English poet. (Source: The Columbia Guide to Standard American English by Mr. Kenneth G. Wilson.)

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

8. ## Re: many + a + something

Hmm... That's a little ironic because I was choosing the quotes so that none of them would have a trace of "negativity"! I thought, for example, "He clearly likes the idea of dying for his sovereign. Nothing negative about this one, let's pick it," or, "The Master caresses the flowers because he loves them---very 'positive'! That's a good one," and so on.

It's interesting to see that you, a native speaker, feel this "negative" nuance and that it makes you understand these quotes so differently!

9. ## Re: many + a + something

Originally Posted by birdeen's call
Hmm... That's a little ironic because I was choosing the quotes so that none of them would have a trace of "negativity"! I thought, for example, "He clearly likes the idea of dying for his sovereign. Nothing negative about this one, let's pick it," or, "The Master caresses the flowers because he loves them---very 'positive'! That's a good one," and so on.

It's interesting to see that you, a native speaker, feel this "negative" nuance and that it makes you understand these quotes so differently!

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Birdeen's call,

(1) Ah! "Nuance" is the word I was looking for. Thanks!

(2) Dying for his sovereign/ Caressing his dying flowers.

As an old man, I quite naturally attach a negative feeling to

"die"!!!

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

10. ## Re: many + a + something

As a native, I suggest you do not use this construct. It is a poetic form and will sound odd if you use it in everyday conversation. Certainly saying "many a mushroom" will seem strange.

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