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I'm writing a story about meeting a very old professor whose work I really like, and was wondering which of the following is correct:

"Dying professors are rarely the destination of 10,000-mile pilgrimages."

Or,

"Dying professors are rarely the destinations of 10,000-mile pilgrimages."

The second sounds more grammatical to me, but the first seems to make more sense logically (only one destination). If both are grammatically correct, then which one is better written, or more sensical

Any input would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

Edit: grammar mistake second option (professor to professors)

  • Did you mean to use the singular "professor" in the second version? At the moment it's a wee bit confusing as to exactly what you intend the difference to be between it and the first version. – tkp Mar 13 at 15:08
  • Yes, sorry, I'll make that edit straight away! – Matt Mar 13 at 15:20
  • Cool. As a new user you'll see that your edit needs approval (didn't realize that was necessary when a poster was editing their own question!). I've approved but it is awaiting one more approval from someone else of sufficient rep. I'll go ahead and answer based on the upcoming changed version 😉 – tkp Mar 13 at 15:22
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    Thank you! Just to clarify, my edit is from the singular to the plural. – Matt Mar 13 at 15:26
  • Yup, that's what I'd thought you meant. I've added some bolding to further stress the point. – tkp Mar 13 at 15:40
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To my ears, both are fine, grammatically, although I prefer the first, with the singular "destination". I'm sure there's a technical reason as to why the singular "destination" is permitted with the apparently plural "Dying professors" but maybe I'm just saying that 'cos I like it better! Even if there is such a reason, I'll have to leave it to someone smarter to explain. All I know is, as I say, they're both fine to my ears. Grammatically.

But I do have a problem with your metaphor itself. What exactly does it mean to refer to professors as a destination (or destinations)?

Typically, "destination" means something like the endpoint of a journey, so sure, in some sense you travel to meet the old dude, and so he is your "destination". But without any further context, I find that word choice confusing, or at least unhelpful; not worth the metaphorical effort, as it were. The reason I even mention this, tangential to your question though it may be, is because when trying to answer your question about the correct plurality I found myself dissatisfied with either form. Then I realized what was throwing me wasn't the plurality, but the metaphor. So, change the metaphor and maybe your plurality question will just go away. 🙂

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  • Thanks! You're right, I am a bit uneasy with the word choice of "destination." I wanted to get the religious idea in with "pilgrimage" and continue that idea throughout it, but I wasn't sure how to refer to the end of a pilgrimage or what the best word is. I settled for "destination" because I wasn't sure whether "end" was sounded good, and maybe was too vague. I considered something ultra-specific like "Mecca" but thought that was weird and inappropriate for the narrative. If you have any alternatives or re-phrasing (I considered "dying professors rarely end 10,000...), I'd love to hear them. – Matt Mar 13 at 15:55
  • Not knowing the rest of the story, I can't be sure, but "the Mecca" or "a Mecca" sounds like a superb metaphor! Even more so if religious overtones are useful. That said, if the religious journey motif is already clear at this point in your story, then maybe "destination" is fine after all. – tkp Mar 13 at 16:03
  • Ok, I'll have to re-consider my options then. Thanks :) – Matt Mar 13 at 17:32
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"Dying professor are rarely the destinations of 10,000-mile pilgrimages." This one sounds downright ungrammatical to me since, professor is a singular countable noun which is being modified by dying - an adjective, and we do know that singular countable nouns are always preceded by an indefinite article a/an

,So I would say:

a dying professor

In this case we'd have to change are to is for the sake of subject-verb agreement, and in turn we'd also have to change the destinations to the destination so we'd have:

a dying professor is rarely the destination of ten-thousand-mile pilgrimages.

However, I'd have to say the first one sounds a lot better than the one above since it has an air of generality to it. consider these examples:

these tropical islands are popular tourist destinations

these tropical islands are a popular tourist destination

In the first example you are referring to each island individually. in the second one, however, you are bunching them all up and describing them as a popular tourist destination as a whole (or group).(nouns like this refer to a group) in the case of the professors, you don't mean to refer to each professor individually, you mean to bunch them all up saying all dying professors, as whole or as a group of people are not a common destination for...

  • Thanks! I realised I made a grammar mistake in the second option, thanks for picking up on it. I meant "Dying professors are rarely the destinations of 10,000-mile pilgrimages." Do you still think the first option sounds better than this? – Matt Mar 13 at 15:22
  • does that help you make up your mind? – Fermichem Mar 13 at 15:50
  • Yes, thank you! I will go for the singular, as I agree the general idea fits what I want to say better. I don't intend to say individual professors are destinations, but professors generally, so thank you for clearing it up with the best word choice. Depending on what @tkr recommends, I may use a different word for "destination" but nevertheless will go for the singular. Thanks! – Matt Mar 13 at 16:00
  • You got it smiley face And I agree with @tkp with the word mecca, it goes really well with the context, – Fermichem Mar 13 at 16:06
  • Ok, may use that then. Thanks:) – Matt Mar 13 at 16:28

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