Forgive me for asking two questions in a single post, but I think it would make more sense to post them together. So please indulge me.

Sentence: He is not unique. We should be able to discover such breed of men on turning the pages of history, small in number though they might be.

  1. Is 'such (a) breed of men' too archaic an expression to still use today? (I'm using it in a translation of a short story)

  2. Usage of article: 'such breed of men', 'such a breed of men', or 'such a breed of man'? Also, could you please explain the logic behind your choice?

I find myself confused over the more complex usages/omissions of articles. So, a proper explanation or even a link would be much appreciated.

  • 1
    It is an error to believe that just because you yourself may not be personally familiar with a particular turn of phrase in English that it must necessarily be archaic. This one is clearly nothing like archaic.
    – tchrist
    Mar 26, 2013 at 14:14
  • @tchrist Oh, believe me, it's not me who feels it's archaic, in fact I find the expression quite poetic. It's just that the feedback given to me in class was that 'breed of men' sounds weird, and this, by both American and British speakers. (Thanks for the editing, btw)
    – Soulz
    Mar 26, 2013 at 14:34

2 Answers 2

  1. It's fairly high in tone but not archaic. To my British ears there is a strong Shakespearean echo, but maybe you are happy with that. I guess it depends on the style of the rest of the story.

    This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
    This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
    This other Eden, demi-paradise,
    This fortress built by Nature for herself
    Against infection and the hand of war,
    This happy breed of men, this little world,
    This precious stone set in the silver sea,
    Which serves it in the office of a wall,
    Or as a moat defensive to a house,
    Against the envy of less happier lands,
    This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England!
    — Richard II, Act 2

  2. I would suggest a personal pronoun instead of the article, and a general tightening.

    He is not unique. We may discover his breed of men in the pages of history, few in number though they be.

  • I came across the Shakesperean reference when I googled the phrase. Thank you for suggesting a perfect work-around :D
    – Soulz
    Mar 28, 2013 at 12:36

1) It's not too archaic for creative writing. It's a descriptive term, trying to indicate that the men in question are somehow set apart from other men. I wouldn't use the term informally or in casual conversation but if you're doing it for a short story I would find it totally acceptable.

2) You need the "a" article in there, but either such a breed of men or such a breed of man could be used. I personally would prefer the latter.

  • You don't need the article. It's not required. See here or google the expression. And breed of man doesn't seem right to me. Breed is defined as a stock of animals within a species... See here. So you can't say a breed of dog but a breed of dogs Mar 26, 2013 at 13:49
  • @RaduMiron I noticed that when googling "breed of men" the very first return is "Breed of Man" as well as about half the other returns.
    – Marcus_33
    Mar 26, 2013 at 13:57
  • Yeah, I wasn't sure about that. Sorry, I just went on instinct. At least it's in a comment. :D Mar 26, 2013 at 14:10
  • @RaduMiron: "You don't need the article. It's not required. See here or google the expression." Believe me, those two are the first things any sensible person would do. And unless I missed something, the dictionary you linked to doesn't mention anything about the use of article in this particular phrase.
    – Soulz
    Mar 26, 2013 at 14:24
  • 1
    @RaduMiron Looked at both links you posted, again. Still see nothing about the usage of the article in a similar phrase. In fact, links seem to suggest using 'a' is standard. "a breed". Also, there's absolutely nothing wrong in saying "a breed of dog". en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Shepherd
    – Soulz
    Mar 26, 2013 at 17:52

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