Consider these two sentences:

A bank was robbed for the second time in two days.

A bank was robbed for the second time in as many days.

Is there a term for describing the period of time by relying on the count of actions that has already been established?

  • 1
    It's called Coreference, in the general case ( in Bill considers himself superior to Frank, the words Bill and himself are coreferential, i.e, they both refer to the same individual. In this case, what's coreferential are the numbers involved, and here they can appear in either ordinal (second) or cardinal (two) and still maintain coreference. The second sentence uses an equative idiom as many, meaning 'the same number (as)', referring back to the previous phrase. As suggested in the answer, this is not quite as easy to parse as the first one. May 18, 2017 at 19:17

2 Answers 2


As mentioned by John Lawler, this could be called a case of "coreference." Another term for it is Anaphora.

Anaphora is defined in grammar (as opposed to rhetoric) as:

use of a grammatical substitute (such as a pronoun or a pro-verb) to refer to the denotation of a preceding word or group of words; also : the relation between a grammatical substitute and its antecedent

This exact structure is discussed in the paper "A pragmatic analysis of so-called anaphoric islands" in the journal Language. They call this particular case of anaphora unique because "second" and "two" are not morphologically related. In that sense, it could be argued that it is a form of weak anaphora, as pointed out in LBaker's answer. However, the authors here argue that it is still appropriate, or at least, "not infelicitous."

Lakoff & Ross proposed the following three degrees of deviance for outbound anaphora:

a. if the lexical item and the antecedent are not morphologically related


However, it is not the case that morphological unrelatedness necessarily results in infelicitous outbound anaphora. Consider the example in 10, where the containing word second is clearly not morphologically related to the intended antecedent two.

(10) This is the second time in as many weeks.

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    (1)The anaphora answer is brilliant if way over my level of comprehension. Thanks for the rare information! (2) Congratulations to RaceYouAnytime on this terrific progression to 4500+ reputation within such a short span of days by generously helping a large number of (mainly new) users -- I am very glad my upvote here took you from 4499 past this milestone of your fellow members' appreciation -- IS THIS A NEW RECORD AT EL & U? May 18, 2017 at 22:33

I don't understand your question, but the first sentence is excellent. In the second sentence, "second" is ordinal, not a number, so it is week for using more words than needed and wrong for non-parallelism. Yes, many people write or speak in this manner, but that doesn't strengthen it.

  • 1
    You want "weak," not "week."
    – Xanne
    May 18, 2017 at 19:21
  • also, no answer should start with "i don't understand your question." please delete.
    – abcd
    May 25, 2017 at 23:02

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