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Sorry, I'm new here and far from an expert grammarian.

I'm wrestling with the correct way to handle the phrase "X after X" as perhaps a singular collection or a plural.

I see that X could itself be something plural or singular and in either case "X after X" when taken as a phrase implies more than one.  I feel a bit embarrassed, but I'm lost.  The only option below that I immediately recognize as incorrect is (d):

(a) There have been betrayal after betrayal

(b) There have been betrayals after betrayals

(c) There has been betrayal after betrayal

(d) INCORRECT: There has been betrayals after betrayals



What's correct and maybe I should also ask what's preferable usage?

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Hi, OldDog, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange,

@OldDog posted:

Sorry, I'm new here and far from an expert grammarian.

I'm wrestling with the correct way to handle the phrase "X after X" as perhaps a singular collection or a plural.

I see that X could itself be something plural or singular and in either case "X after X" when taken as a phrase implies more than one.  I feel a bit embarrassed, but I'm lost.  The only option below that I immediately recognize as incorrect is (d):

(a) There have been betrayal after betrayal

(b) There have been betrayals after betrayals

(c) There has been betrayal after betrayal

(d) INCORRECT: There has been betrayals after betrayals



What's correct and maybe I should also ask what's preferable usage?

This form (something after something) works only in the singular form, so 'b' doesn't work. 'A' is ungrammatical because 'there have been' should be followed by a plural noun, not a singular one. The only one that sounds acceptable is 'c'. However, it sounds odd to me, or it might need a very special context.

Last edited by ahmed_btm

Hello, OldDog, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange.

I agree with Ahmed_btm that the singular is needed in cases like this one. While notionally plural, "NP[singular] after NP[singular]" is grammatically singular.

I find "There has been betrayal after betrayal" natural as well as grammatical. I'm reminded of a quote from Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now:

  • "We must kill them. We must incinerate them. Pig after pig, cow after cow, village after village, army after army." (source)

We can't tell from the quote whether Marlon Brando would have used the singular or plural after the construction. I would:

  • Pig after pig was incinerated.
  • Cow after cow was incinerated.

Perhaps the plural would work after "army after army," but that's just because "army" can be treated as plural or singular, just as "family" can.

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