I’m reading Black Beauty and there is a sentence there which starts like this:
Many a brave man went down, many a horse fell,
Why man here? Why not men?
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The singular word "man" is used to agree with the determiner "a." Learner's dictionary provides the following explanation for why an author might use "many" instead of "many a":
The fixed expression many a/an... is more formal than the single word many, and it is much less common. Many a/an... is used mainly in literary writing and newspapers. Like the adjective and pronoun many discussed above, many a/an... is used to indicate a large number of something. However, it takes a singular noun, which can be followed by a singular verb. Here are some examples:
- It remained a mystery for many a year. [=for many years]
- I've been there many a time. [=many times]
- Many a politician has promised to make changes. [Politician and has are singular.]
According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, "many a something" is formal and old-fashioned and means a large number of people or things. The followings are some of the examples: - Many a parent has had to go through this same painful process. - I've sat here many a time (=often) and wondered what happened to her.