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In singular English say:

The thing is an end in itself.

How does plural look like then?

The things are the ends in themselves.

Am I right?

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closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, TimLymington, RyeɃreḁd, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, tchrist May 15 '14 at 1:33

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When you use an indefinite article in the singular, there is no need to change to a definite article in the plural. The plural of the indefinite article is a zero article: a house => houses, an apple, apples. – oerkelens May 14 '14 at 11:59
I think it's General Reference that the things themselves can be self-justifying individually or collectively, and anyone who's thinking of using the definite article in either context should be asking questions on English Language Learners, not here. – FumbleFingers May 14 '14 at 12:18
OK, I didn't notice English Language Learners at StackExchange before. – TA_Kosice May 14 '14 at 19:19
Usage: -> About 28,700 results; -> About 188,000 results; and sometimes both appear in the same work:… -> About 152,000 results – Mathieu K. Feb 9 at 19:06

3 Answers 3

It's done like this as well: Peace, love and understanding are ends in themselves, and Mr. Costello is to be commended for advocating them.

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Similar but different. This is an answer to a different question. – david6 May 14 '14 at 21:57

The things are an end in themselves. -- ('respectively' being understood.)

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Isn't that ambiguous between whether they're a single collective end or each is an individually an end? – Racheet May 14 '14 at 13:18
Contrast: Peace, love and understanding are an end in themselves. (single collective end) – Racheet May 14 '14 at 13:19
Killing badgers, kissing babies and defrauding the public are an end in themselves (multiple individual ends) – Racheet May 14 '14 at 13:20
It's clear from context in my examples, but it isn't clear grammatically. – Racheet May 14 '14 at 13:20
Similarly: John and Marsha are an item. A toothbrush and a can are items. – Kyle Hale May 14 '14 at 15:36

These things are ends in themselves -- if each 'thing' being referred to is itself an individual end.

The things are an end in themselves -- if the 'things' are collectively an end.

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