Harry looked into the stands. Colin was sitting in one of the highest seats, his camera raised, taking picture after picture, the sound strangely magnified in the deserted stadium.

I can probably understand why "take picture" alone can make sense. It's because "take picture" describes an action, therefore there is no article preceding 'picture'.

But in this context, "taking picture after picture" describes that Colin kept taking pictures, one and another. I might think taking a picture after a picture or taking pictures after pictures looks right in this case. But I'm really not sure.

Any thoughts?

-- From Harry Potter.

1 Answer 1


The pattern {noun} after {noun} is a common rhetorical device.

The nausea came in wave after wave.

We were having a great time at the pub, singing song after song.

You can think of it as a periphrasis for the plural that conveys the sense of "many" and "repetition" or "continuousness".

Paraphrases of the above:

The nausea came repeatedly in waves.

We were having a great time at the pub, singing many songs over the course of the evening.


The nausea came in waves, one after another.

We were having a great time at the pub singing songs, one after another.

  • why is there no article in the phrase "take picture", whilst you can also say: "take a picture" or "take pictures"?
    – dan
    Oct 31, 2018 at 11:11
  • 1
    It is not referring to particular pictures but to a mode of taking pictures, one after another. It doesn't depict (the mere fact) that Colin was taking pictures as much as how Colin was taking pictures.
    – TimR
    Oct 31, 2018 at 11:20
  • Oh, sorry for the confusion. I meant the phrase "take picture" alone, not in this context "take picture after picture".
    – dan
    Oct 31, 2018 at 11:29
  • 1
    That is not a grammatical sentence in several respects. "in opposite to" is also wrong. You can use the plural, however, to refer to the activity of photographing, "Taking pictures is much easier when the camera has auto-focus".
    – TimR
    Oct 31, 2018 at 11:36
  • 1
    @dan - Oh, my. I wouldn't trust that dictionary very much. That's an awful sentence.
    – J.R.
    Oct 31, 2018 at 11:55

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