Observe the following sentence:

"What stops a murderer from killing another innocent soul, and then another, and then another, etc.?"

Perhaps a better way of articulating this is with an ellipses?

"What stops a murderer from killing another innocent soul (and then another, and then another...)?"

"Et cetera" is used to express "and other things", or "and so forth". This meaning is not exactly what is trying to be evoked in the above example. The meaning needed is closer to "and more of the same thing" rather than "and other similar things." "Et al." is similar to "et cetera" and thus also inappropriate.

Is there a better way of expressing a theoretical relentless repetition of something, besides using "et cetera" or an ellipses?

Please feel free to re-phrase the above example to better communicate this idea.

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    The repitition is already implied by "and then another, and then another?" You could just stop there. – herisson Sep 13 '15 at 3:46
  • @sumelic -- But how is an endless repetition implied by that statement? "...and then another, and then another" implies only two repetitions, does it not? – Kyle Sep 13 '15 at 3:51
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    It only lists two repetitions explicitly, but nothing in the logic of the sentence suggests that there are only two; in fact, I think it's implied that there will be even more after that. This might be a particularity of this example, though. – herisson Sep 13 '15 at 3:52

ad infinitum is the latin phrase.

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    that might be a bit of hyperbole, though; even the most dedicated serial killer could not, in a lifetime, kill an infinite number of people! – Brian Hitchcock Sep 13 '15 at 10:18
  • This phrase certainly answers my question (i.e. indication of an endless repetition). However, like @BrianHitchcock, I see "ad infinitum" as slightly over the top in this context. "What stops a murderer from killing another innocent soul ad infinitum?" I'm afraid of people seeing "infinity" and thinking, "What melodramatic rhetoric!" In general usage, does this phrase imply a literal connotation? – Kyle Sep 26 '15 at 4:21

The word you may be seeking is indefinitely.

What's to stop this murderer carrying on the killing of people indefinitely?

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As sumelic pointed out, you don't need an explicit signal like et cetera or ... to describe boundless repetition in non-technical writing.

What stops a killer from killing again, and again, and again?

In my experience of English writing, this kind of construction is a standard way to denote boundless repetition. It would be very difficult to find a reader who would look at a sentence like this and conclude that precisely three repetitions are implied.

Indeed, Merriam-Webster lists the idioms again and again and over and over as synonyms for repeatedly—a word that implies repetition without bound. This shows that boundless repetition of an event can be idiomatically suggested by just two repetitions of a word.

In technical writing, on the other hand, one must be careful about things like this, and an explicit signal of boundless repetition is probably called for. In that case, it might be best to ditch the repeated words altogether.

Barreira, in her dissenting opinion, asks whether the desire to prevent a killer from continuing to kill indefinitely can legally be made the basis of a sentencing decision.

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  • What stops a murderer from killing another innocent soul, and then another, and then another, etc.?

I would suggest avoiding the list, to obviate choosing a way to terminate it.

  • What stops a murderer from killing one innocent soul after another?

The idiom "one [] after another" (or "one after the other) means

one after the other (also one after another) first one person or thing and then another, followed by more

The cornfields stretched for many miles, one after the other.

Usage notes: often used with a noun immediately after one: She ate one chocolate after the other until the box was empty.


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