ADJ (of) a -- where's the plural?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Apr 17 00:24:47 UTC 2004

Combining two recent threads, the "ADJ of a" construction and the
problem of where the rules fail (e.g. in disjunct agreement

Mike Francesa of WFAN sports talk radio uttered this sentence during
his show before the championship game of the men's NCAA basketball
tournament.  The reference is to UConn basketball players Ben Gordon
and Rashad Anderson.

"You can't leave Gordon and Anderson alone--they're too good a shooters."

Now that doesn't sound quite right, but the interesting part is that
there's no real alternative that does.  Note also that the same facts
hold for the "ADJ of a" version:

*They're too good of a shooter.
*They're too good of a shooters.

Short of finessing the problem by taking the mongoose route ("Please
send me a mongoose; make it twins"), there's really no way to
pluralize the perfectly good sentence

He's too good of a shooter.

("--the former is too good (of) a shooter, and so is the latter"?)
Actually, you can *say* "They're [tu:] good shooters", but only for
"two", not "too".


*Other examples for me are tag questions after "Few"-initial subjects
("Few of them left, *did they?/*didn't they?"), the "one of my
friends' mother(s)" gambit, and the negated counterpart of "used to",
which I can pronounce but not spell--(*He didn't use(d) to...).  As I
recall, some other ads-ers don't have a problem with the last one,
but you get the point, even if the examples of the phenomenon may
have to be changed.

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