My question is a bit hard to explain, but I was wondering about whether or not there was a rule for how subject and objects should be pluralized. This is the sentence that sparked my curiosity:

... thin strips of metal lined every other tread.

For context, there is a metal strip or bump on every other stair in a staircase. It's just decorative architecture. Anyways, take a look at this second example, which is a rewrite of the first.

... a thin strip of metal lined every other tread.

The meaning is the same, but the subject noun is singular rather than plural. I have looked at other questions, but I cannot understand and apply those answers to this sentence. Pardon my lack of sense, but is there a rule for when the subject and object both need to be plural, and how can I tell which I should use?

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    The meaning is not the same to me. In the first sentence, there are multiple metal strips per alternating step on the staircase. In the second, there's only one strip per alternating step. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 13 '16 at 6:44
  • There is no rule which says that subject and object have to correspond in number. Otherwise how would you say I caught two fish? However care has to be taken to avoid ambiguity in cases such as you are citing. Thin strips of metal lined every tread could mean there were one or multiple strips on each tread. The second sentence makes the position perfectly clear. – WS2 Sep 13 '16 at 7:32
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    Or that there was a metal lining for every tread except the one in question. – deadrat Sep 13 '16 at 7:33
  • @deadrat Indeed! And that ambiguity could persist with the second sentence. It would be better to say every second tread or alternate treads. Using every other in this context often throws up that problem. – WS2 Sep 13 '16 at 7:34
  • I heard an example of this ambiguity on TV only this morning: the reporter spoke of "(Somethings) every day" and I thought it should have been "A (something) every day" to make it clear that there was only one at a time. – Kate Bunting Sep 13 '16 at 8:07

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