"The glory is yours to claim, for that is the wages of war."

The above line feels so natural to me, but someone pointed out they thought it would be grammatically correct to use one of the below options, all of which just sound odd to me:

"The glory is yours to claim, for those are the wages of war."

Doesn't sound right to me because "those" isn't the word I would use to refer to "glory."

"The glory is yours to claim, for that is the wage of war."

Also somehow sounds wrong when I think about all of the ways I hear the word...

"The wages of sin is death."

and I've never heard anybody say "...a day's wage." It's always "...a day's wages."

Also, I'm a little biased because this is for a script for a board game I am designing, called "Wages of War."

Is the first sentence really incorrect? Nobody I showed this to said anything about this until after I got the voice-over recorded, unfortunately. Knowing that this is the title of the game, is that justifiable reason to leave it being that it's really a play on the title?

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    How does "The glory is the wages of war" sound to you? – Hank Jan 23 '17 at 17:06
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    "The glory is yours to claim: the wages of war." avoids what I consider a jarring juxtaposition. 'The wages of sin is death' certainly seems to license singular agreement with 'wages', but the usage is archaic. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 23 '17 at 17:06
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    Wage can certainly be singular: Oxford has "an income of less than half the average wage". In your sentence, that is referring to glory, which is singular and takes is, as @Hank has commented. – Andrew Leach Jan 23 '17 at 17:18
  • @Tom22: I don't think it's really that "wages of war" is an "idiom" (in respect of being treated as a singular noun phrase). Note that MW says (for the sense recompense, reward) usually used in pl. but singular or plural in construction the wages of sin is death. – FumbleFingers Jan 23 '17 at 19:03
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    Just a thought: perhaps you can avoid the issue altogether by adding a second wage of war: "The glory and x are yours to claim, for those are the wages of war" – Angela Jan 24 '17 at 1:10

In a case like this, normal usage had best determine how to proceed.
Usage suggests that "wages" refers to "complete compensation" while "wage" refers to "salary". This seems common usage: wage earner (one who earns a salary), top wages, (high on the scale of compensation).
It may be the popularity of the KJV quote The wages of sin is death may have kept the plural form in the language long after it could have been abandoned, except to indicate more than one individual salary, and settled this question. That quote seems to have put in the English speaker's mind something beyond simple monetary reward for "wages". We can have a "wage scale", but probably not a "wages scale". We can write He has a low wage job and not sound unusual. But He has a low wages job does sound odd.
There just does not seem any reason to change "The glory is yours to claim, for that is the wages of war.". According to general usage, it is fine.

  • But this doesn't address the singular agreement of the plural-form. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 24 '17 at 17:34
  • The precedent of the KJV Bible seems to completely deal with the question of number.. The translators of that Bible must have considered "wages" as a collective. – J. Taylor Jan 24 '17 at 18:23
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    There are verily's, thee's and thou's in the KJV also, but that doesn't mean that we should use them today and hope to sound normal. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 24 '17 at 20:33
  • That is quite right. However the older pronouns rarely are part of an entrenched idiomatic expression such as "The wages of sin is death".. The ancestors that created this expression cannot defend it. I cannot defend it, and would not if I could. But I can accept it as part of our language. – J. Taylor Jan 24 '17 at 20:43
  • "The wages of sin is death" scores getting on for half a million hits on Google. "That is the wages of war" scores zero (apart from the single example here). The former is the fixed expression; the latter is a non-standard echo. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 24 '17 at 20:53

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