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Should the three nouns shown in bold in this sentence be singular or plural?

The pastor shares that he has seen several people in the hospital take their last breath at the very moment that he prayed with them or played worship music to them on their death bed.

In the context of the sentence, should it be "breath", "moment," and "bed," OR "breaths," "moments," and "beds," OR some combination of the singular and plural? I did a Google Book search to see how authors wrote a similar sentence and found mixed results.

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    Remind me not to invite the pastor to the hosital. Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 3:32
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    Choose the singular and more elegant "they/their/them", it replaces "take his or her last breath" and "prayed with him or her"
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 6:35
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    And choose "says" rather than"shares". Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 7:16
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    Does this answer your question? "They're using a cell phone" vs. "They're using cell phones" (especially Rappaport's analysis). Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 16:55
  • @OldBrixtonian: There's nothing wrong with "shares" here - some might not like it, but that's a stylistic choice rather than a correctness one.
    – psmears
    Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 17:05

2 Answers 2

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Pluralising the nouns in this sentence subtly changes the meaning from:

The pastor shares that he has seen several people in the hospital each take their last breath at the very moment that he prayed with them or played worship music to them on their death bed.

to:

The pastor shares that he has seen several people in the hospital all take their last breaths at the very moments that he prayed with them or played worship music to them on their death beds.

Whether to pluralise the nouns depends entirely on the writer's intended meaning.

As the sentence is presented without the nouns pluralised, a reader should infer that the first option is the intended meaning (the original sentence is still correct whether the writer include each/all or not).

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  • Are you saying that one of them means they all died at the same time?
    – Barmar
    Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 5:16
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I think they are totally correct, no need to make them plural, since they stand for a single breath, a single moment and a single bed for each.

Ps. Probably it is better to replace the word "take" with its gerund form.

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