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Many a girl in this class _____ got high scores in English.

Saw this on elsewhere. To me it seems the blank can be "have" but not "has".

All choices:

  • is
  • are
  • has
  • have

many a girl in this class _____ got high scores in English

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    It's Many a mickle makes a muckle, not ...make a muckle. That's because "a mickle" and "a girl" are singular nouns. Commented Jan 15 at 17:01
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    This is a fairly silly task in verb agreement, because the subject is quaint and and odd. The idiom "many a ..." is pretty rare and folksy, and if your English level is high enough to be learning such idioms, you are probably above grammar tests in verbal agreement.
    – James K
    Commented Jan 15 at 23:22
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    The main thing that makes this sound wrong and awkward to me is the word got in this sentence. Remove it and it sounds and feels more natural.
    – Chris Dodd
    Commented Jan 16 at 0:29
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    Fun fact: the phrase "many a" is often used in American crossword clues to indicate that the answer is singular. A clue like "Many a funny TV show" might have SITCOM as the answer; if the clue were "Many funny TV shows," then SITCOMS would be a possible answer but SITCOM would not. Commented Jan 16 at 3:23
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    @traktor - as a Brit, I never find 'gotten' to be appropriate, ever. UK English dropped that usage sometime after America started gaining traction as an English-speaking country, so they kept it & we dropped it. It may be that Australia kept it too, I wasn't aware of that. It generally always sounds 'wrong' to Brits - even if we know why. Commented Jan 16 at 11:35

2 Answers 2

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The unusual, but not incorrect 'many a girl' makes it 'has', to agree with the singular.

The more common 'many girls' would, of course, use 'have'.

They threw you a curve-ball to try catch you out.

Many a time they'll try that trick ;)

From comments
This is an older form, not common today, though one I know well as it survives in my native dialect, Yorkshire, northern England. It is still a relatively common usage in the north, often as 'many a time…' or 'many's the time…'. I now live in the south & really never hear it used.
I cannot attest to its commonality outside that area and across the English-speaking world, but it wouldn't surprise me if there was a large percentage of English natives who were not familiar with it at all.

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    +1. What's even weirder is "Many's the time I saw that boat cross the lake."
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 15 at 10:27
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    I don't think it's common these days. As I mentioned, older constructions such as this like this have hung on in some of the Northern British dialects. I recognise them really because that's my own native dialect. I can't speak for the US at all, but I don't expect to hear them world- or even nation-wide. Commented Jan 15 at 13:26
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    @DoneWithThis.: In AmE, this construction ("many a [noun] [verb]...") is somewhat common in verse, but completely unheard of in prose, at least in my experience. However, I would allow for a somewhat generous interpretation of "verse," to include things like free verse and blank verse, and even "the author is trying to sound fancy but it's not really poetic at all."
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 15 at 21:49
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    Each girl has her own high score, but there are many such cases. Commented Jan 15 at 23:06
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    @MikeM - "Many a girl have got" is just plain wrong. This is simple singular/plural agreement. You're falling for the same curveball the OP did. Commented Jan 16 at 14:19
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This is similar to the "every" problem that confuses many people. "Every girl" is singular, and requires a singular verb. "Every girl is..." just as "many a girl has..."

"Many a girl in this class has gotten high scores..." sounds more grammatical to me than "...has got high scores...". Even better, I think, would be "Many a girl in this class has received high scores in English."

See the lyrics to the song "Many a New Day" from Oklahoma! by Richard Rogers for a long list of colloquial "many a..." phrases.

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    I think "has gotten" vs "has got" is an AmE/BrE distinction. Commented Jan 17 at 14:37
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    Thanks for the alt explanation. Gotten does sound better
    – tgkprog
    Commented Jan 17 at 19:22
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    The connection with "every" just occurred to me as well, but then I came back and saw your answer addressing it. "Nary a ..." is another in the same vein, acting as the complete negation of "every".
    – chepner
    Commented Jan 17 at 20:53

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