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Does 'many a' take a singular pronoun or a plural one?

Many a is followed by a singular noun. So also does it follow a singular pronoun?

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    I can't think of a case where "Many a" is followed by a pronoun at all. "Many a he"? "Many an it"? Could you include a couple of sentences illustrating what you mean, please? – Andrew Leach Jun 7 '18 at 17:01
  • @AndrewLeach I’m guessing he wants to know what later pronoun to use with a "many a whatever" antecedent. At least, that's the question attempted to answer. :) – tchrist Jun 7 '18 at 17:28
  • What do you mean by "a singular pronoun"? Can you provide an example sentence? – BillJ Jun 7 '18 at 19:09
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There is no one-size-fits-all rule. You simply use whichever pronoun makes sense given the context. Notice how all five of these are different:

  1. Many an old tree was damaged so badly that it had to be cut down and its stump removed.
  2. Many a new student comes to school thinking they know more than their teacher does.
  3. Many a young mother needs extra help at home so she can have some time to herself.
  4. Many a young father is so happy to help his wife in housework and childcare that he seldom even needs to be asked.
  5. Many a young couple are pleasantly surprised when they first meet each other’s parents.

Notice that the last one takes a plural verb.

And regarding pronouns, you shouldn’t be thinking of singular or plural. That’s the wrong axis.

In a comment, Chaim insightfully notes that:

On that view, your only plural is #5, so a one-size-fits-all rule consistent with your examples is to use the same number that you would use if the word "many" were elided: an old tree was damaged, a new student comes thinking that they know stuff, a young mother needs, a young father is happy, and a young couple are pleased.

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    Personally I would switch #2 to "thinking he knows more than his teacher does." Is this just an aesthetic difference, or avoidance of the default to male pronouns? If so, it seems plausible to advise use of singular language in all examples but those like #5, where a young couple might be surprised what they do regardless of the "Many a" business. – Chaim Jun 7 '18 at 17:47
  • @Chaim It isn't avoidance so much as it is that to most native speakers today, using he for both genders somehow sounds wrong: a girl shouldn't be a he or a him. Just like you, they can be a singular pronoun — but doesn’t have to be. Which it is depends on the number of the referent but it still takes plural concord in the verb. Both you and they are alike in that regard. – tchrist Jun 7 '18 at 18:15
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    On that view, your only plural is #5, so a one-size-fits-all rule consistent with your examples is to use the same number that you would use if the word "many" were elided: an old tree was damaged, a new student comes thinking that they know stuff, a young mother needs, a young father is happy, and a young couple are pleased. – Chaim Jun 7 '18 at 18:21
  • @Chaim Yes, you're exactly right. – tchrist Jun 7 '18 at 18:21
  • Both singular and plural verbs for "couple" are currently in use, though plural remains a bit more common, especially in BrE. I am more likely to use singular, which is why that sentence felt wrong to me at first and I had to look it up. – Kamil Drakari Jun 7 '18 at 19:38

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