The Grammarphobia Blog

Game theory

Q: I was watching ESPN and a sportscaster referred to “a night of amazing game threes.” I hear that usage a lot, but this time my ears pricked up. Shouldn’t it be “games three,” like “attorneys general” or “brothers-in-law”?

A: This practice of pluralizing the adjective instead of the noun in a phrase like “game threes” seems to be a common idiom in sports writing and broadcasting. I see it quite often. Here are a few examples from the Internet (and I won’t try to make the capitalization consistent):

? The Wizards and Celtics posted wins in their Game Fives [meaning each team won its respective game five in the NBA playoffs].

? Most of the teams that win game ones are home teams.

? How many first-round game sevens will there be?

? Two of the best Series-ending Game Sixes happened within a few years of each other.

This usage makes sense to me. The phrase “games three” would not only look odd but might also be misleading, especially in a phrase like “games three and four,” which might refer to two specific playoff games.

I think a term like “game fours” (or “game twos,” and so on) in various playoff series should be considered a grammatical unit, like “plus fours” for the knickers golfers used to wear, or the “terrible twos” that parents of tots endure, or the “all-fours” that even younger kids walk on.

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