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The spoils of war

 

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  #1  
Old October 07, 2020, 03:02 PM
Tyrn Tyrn is offline
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The spoils of war

Hi,

Is it singular, or is it plural?

The news is singular, every textbook says so.
The tidings is probably the same.
The wages are rather plural, though one should remember that the wages of sin is death.

To the victor go[es] the spoils. Either way it's old fashioned; I'm just curious how it used to be when it was current. I can't find the definitive answer.
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  #2  
Old October 07, 2020, 03:37 PM
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The word spoils is listed as a plural noun.
News is usually used with a singular verb.
Tidings is usually used with a plural verb.
Wages can take either a singular or a plural form.
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Old October 09, 2020, 05:02 AM
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Interesting question. etymonline.com says that "spoils" is a collective singular. The British National Corpus doesn't have enough relevant data to say anything, but the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) has 41 instances of "go the spoils" and 18 of "goes the spoils".

So the answer is probably that traditionally "spoils" was singular, but in current common usage it is more often than not reanalysed as plural.

(Contrast with "data", which is traditionally the plural of "datum" but in current common usage is generally treated as a non-count noun).
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Old October 09, 2020, 06:12 AM
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There go the spoils of war sounds like the English subjunctive to me.
Here's the test:

The spoils of war were many.
The spoils of war is many.

The second example sounds bad.
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Old October 10, 2020, 07:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by poli View Post
There go the spoils of war sounds like the English subjunctive to me.
?? Surely the irrealis of go is went? Besides which, it's the other phrase (goes the spoils) which indicates that some people treat it as singular.


Quote:
Originally Posted by poli View Post
The spoils of war is many.

The second example sounds bad.
The X is many sounds bad full stop because many is inherently plural, so I don't understand this test.

Last edited by pjt33; October 10, 2020 at 07:45 AM.
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