Each and every

A colleague asked about a sentence similar to this one:

The aim is for each waffle and every pancake to taste as though they were made out of dreams.

The colleague at first wanted to change “they were” to “it was” but then had doubts: there’s an and, so it’s a compound subject and therefore plural, right?

Actually, no. “Each” and “every” are individually distributive, and that carries over if we have them together: “Each waffle and every pancake” is the same as “Each waffle and each pancake,” which is the same as “Each waffle and pancake” or “Each waffle or pancake.” We aren’t looking at waffle-pancake pairs; we’re looking at individual waffles and pancakes, one at a time.

A contrary example would be “So that each husband and each wife can live happily in their home,” where the husband and wife are in fact presented as paired. Contrast this with “Each cobra and every mongoose is kept in its own separate cage.” You would not say “their” there (don’t put a cobra and a mongoose together), and you would not say “are.” Here, though waffles and pancakes are not cobras and mongeese, they are not paired, and so we follow the second example.

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