Is among a tray of something grammatical? I am not sure but using among before a singular word seems ungrammatical, but I am not sure, because it's a tray of a bunch of things.

I found this particular excerpt, but I am not sure how grammatical it is. Many of the results from Google use archaic language or just straight out incorrect language.

...a main document selector designed to select a desired document from among a tray of encoded documents transported thereto...

Another example:

A toy was hidden among a tray of other toys

  • Could you add more detail to explain what you think a "tray of documents" represents? It doesn't sound like the right noun to use in this situation, but I don't know what to suggest as an alternative. It's certainly grammatical, just not idiomatic.
    – Andrew
    May 12 '19 at 0:46
  • Well, I too have no idea what was meant by it since it came from a patent document. How would you reword the second sentence if it's not idiomatic?
    – blackbird
    May 12 '19 at 0:58
  • I couldn't say until I understand the context better. You can have a file of documents, or a box of documents, or a sheaf of documents, or binder of documents, or lots of other possibilities. It's kind of a poorly written sentence -- I mean obviously a "document selector" is something that "selects a document" so why repeat the obvious? But I know in some industries a software company is paid by the amount of documentation they generate, not by the quality of the software they produce, so verbosity is encouraged. I'm not kidding.
    – Andrew
    May 12 '19 at 7:34

Among needs a group of things, and you can describe a group by the container it's in: a tray of encoded documents, or a box of chocolates, or a whole jar of spiders. So this is OK.

Tray sounds odd, because you don't normally keep documents (or toys) on a tray, but maybe it makes sense in context.

  • 2
    Documents are put in a tray, as a simple filing system. There are the terms "in-tray" and "out-tray". Though they are no used as often (in a computerised office), these used to be physical trays, and they contained documents.
    – James K
    May 12 '19 at 21:04

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