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I came across this title today

10 Travelers Who Bought A One-Way Ticket And Began A New Life

I was confused about the usage of singular nouns "a one-way ticket" and "a new life" as the subject is clearly plural. Aren't these words supposed to be plural as well, following the subject-object agreement?

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Consider this:

10 Travelers, each of whom bought A One-Way Ticket And Began A New Life.

You could have made them plural:

10 Travelers Who Bought One-Way Tickets And Began New Lives

but it is not necessary. Actually, "one-way ticket" is used figuratively. My guess is that it means going in a new lifestyle direction and not looking back, rather than buying a physical ticket. In that case, plural would not be appropriate.

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    yes, a native listener will resolve the problem by (so to speak) mentally inserting an 'each' after 'who'. – Michael Harvey Aug 11 '18 at 18:18
  • @user3169 Thank you. But what about new life part? I don't have to pluralize "new life" as well? – vivaldi Aug 11 '18 at 22:12
  • "A New Life" is also figurative, similar to "starting over". – user3169 Aug 11 '18 at 22:32
  • What do you mean exactly by figurative? Do you mean that it's like an idiom? – vivaldi Aug 11 '18 at 22:36
  • It means not literal word for word. A one-way plane ticket vs. taking some action that can't be undone. Idioms usually hold a set meaning beyond the individual words' definitions. – user3169 Aug 12 '18 at 5:30
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This usage isn't allowed in formal English, but it's common to see it, especially in headlines. Headline English allows this kind of construction where the word "who" is used as a a shorter way to indicate "each of whom," as mentioned in @user3169's answer.

  • Oh ok. So in formal English, I will have to make them plural, right? – vivaldi Aug 12 '18 at 4:44
  • @vivaldi You can, but if you make them plural it will change the meaning a bit. If you want to keep the current meaning in formal English, you can just add "each": "Here are ten travelers who each bought a one-way ticket and began a new life." – Paul Dexter Aug 12 '18 at 13:24

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