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I've identified a part of English speech where I always become stuck. Some examples will illustrate:

"He's as great a man as you will ever find." // Fine

"It's as good an option as you could hope for." // Fine

"It's as wise a decision you could've made in the circumstances." // Fine

I've looked this up and the words "man", "option" and "decision" are said to be the postcedents, and the first word of each sentence (which is a personal pronoun), are said to be cataphors. Confer anaphora and antecedent for opposites.

Now the problem arises (as I see it) if you try to use this same construction or pattern with the postcedent in each example in the plural form.

"They're as great [a] men as you will ever find."

"They're as good [an] options as you could hope for."

"They're as wise [a] decisions you could've made in the circumstances."

Whenever I find myself verbally walking down one of these paths, I get to the first indefinite article, and have to stop, all confused, and have to tread back to the start to reconstruct the sentence a different way.

Also, this doesn't just happen when using a pronoun. For example:

"The Chief Justice is as moral a man as you will find."

"The Supreme Court justices are as moral [a] men as you will find."

After thinking about it, I found that you can "cheat", so to speak, by forcing the thing referred to into a singular form. For example:

"They're as great a group of men as you will ever find."

"They're as good a set of options as you could hope for."

"They're as wise a group of decisions you could have made in the circumstances."

I know that this (as far as I know is acceptable), but what I'm really asking is whether you can complete the sentence without using this (hack or kludge), as I see it. In other words can you say:

"They're as great men as you will ever find."

I don't think you can. This has always bugged me.

  • The plural forms as presented don't sound as good to me either. Turning the phrases around works better: e.g. the options are as good as you could hope for. – Lawrence Mar 21 '18 at 4:21
  • Sorry, Zebrafish… this is the first time in 50 years that I've understood the old joke: "Doctor, it hurts when I do this. Really? Then don't do that…" No problem arises except as you imagined it. To the extent that using that construction or pattern with the postcedent in any example causes a problem, don't do that. Simple semantics should stop any question of "They're as great men as you will ever find" because “they” can’t all be the one greatest. How could anything else matter? – Robbie Goodwin Apr 4 '18 at 21:38

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