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BANGKOK 23 April 2019 09:19
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garro

'many A Man' And 'many Men', What Is The Difference?

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I have already searched the internet, but can't find an answer. A Thai teacher asked me to explain the difference between 'many a man' and 'many men'. I use both frequently, but like most native speakers I have not thought too much about them. I explained 'many a man' as really referring to 'many (times) a man' and that this is why it is treated as a singular form. Is this correct?

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I have already searched the internet, but can't find an answer. A Thai teacher asked me to explain the difference between 'many a man' and 'many men'. I use both frequently, but like most native speakers I have not thought too much about them. I explained 'many a man' as really referring to 'many (times) a man' and that this is why it is treated as a singular form. Is this correct?

That is as good an explanation as I have heard.

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Poetically speaking, they mean the same; however, it all depends on the rhyme and the impact the writer wishes to make. "Many men" can refer to a small group (low impact). "Many a man" can refer to a large number of people. Here are some examples:

Two different translations of Proverbs 20:6 -

"Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, But who can find a trustworthy man?" (New American Standard Bible (©1995))

"Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?" (King James Bible)

Both mean the same. The wording is for reader impact.

---

From "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" -

"Many a man would face his gun

And many a man would fall,

The man who shot Liberty Valance,

He shot Liberty Valance,

He was the bravest of them all."

Here, we have the phrase "may a man" to provide poetic impact - it just sounds better than "many men" and flows with the rhyming scheme.

---

I guess it all depends on how you want to describe a group of men!

Edited by wangsuda

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As an English major and professional writer, I'd opine...

"Many men" is simply the common, normal, modern reference to a large number of men, whether together in a group or at large... It could be, for example, "many men like women..." meaning they not have to be in a single group.

"Many a man" is a bit of a poetical/antiquated reference. In truth, it also would typically be used to mean many men.... Another way to think of the meaning here would be to translate it as "many individuals" .....

Since the original person inquiring is Thai, the advice would be, "many a man" is an antiquated phrase, not typically used in modern English writing or speech...unless the person is a dramatist or speechwriter looking for a poetic flourish.

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Yes, it is poetic or dramatic. I think there is an assumed, missing preposition that makes "many a man" to take the singular, but it is just poetic license. I tell you what - the Teachers' Council of Thailand needs to issue a Poet's Licensel

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God, PB , don't give them any ideas! They are dangerous enough with what they have.

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Poetically speaking, they mean the same; however, it all depends on the rhyme and the impact the writer wishes to make. "Many men" can refer to a small group (low impact). "Many a man" can refer to a large number of people. Here are some examples:

Two different translations of Proverbs 20:6 -

"Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, But who can find a trustworthy man?" (New American Standard Bible (©1995))

"Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?" (King James Bible)

Both mean the same. The wording is for reader impact.

---

From "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" -

"Many a man would face his gun

And many a man would fall,

The man who shot Liberty Valance,

He shot Liberty Valance,

He was the bravest of them all."

Here, we have the phrase "may a man" to provide poetic impact - it just sounds better than "many men" and flows with the rhyming scheme.

---

I guess it all depends on how you want to describe a group of men!

:o

There is a difference (but in common use it might often be as practically the same).

Many a man...as used in your Liberty Valance example....would refer to many men shot down one at a time....i.e. it is refering to the singular man... or a a large number of individuals, but only one man at a time.

Many men...could refer to groups of men, but many a man properly refers to one man at a time.

But you're right, one reason for using many a man is for poetic effect.

Edited by IMA_FARANG

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'Many a man' is a poetic way to say that out of all the man in the group referred to, there are many who would...........

You are not implying that all will feel/act/think a certain way but it is your belief that certainly more than a few will ......

Example: Many a man will find Angelie Jolie attractive.

Example: Many a man would rather give in to his wife then face perpetual anger

Example: Many a man would give in to temptation if no one would know.

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