The Number Vs

The expression the number is followed by a singular verb while the expression a number is followed by a plural verb.

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The number of people we need lớn hire is thirteen.

A number of people have written in about this subject.

Pop Quiz

Choose the correct word in each sentence.

1. The number of people lined up for tickets was/were four hundred.

2. A number of suggestions was/were made.

3. There is/are a number of important announcements in the bulletin.

4. Here is/are the number of milk shakes you requested.

Pop Quiz Answers

1. The number of people lined up for tickets was four hundred.

2. A number of suggestions were made.

3. There are a number of important announcements in the bulletin.

4. Here is the number of milk shakes you requested.

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92 responses lớn “The Number vs. A Number

sherlyn says:
June 2, 2011, at 8:35 pm
Its great that you have published such knowledge. I just hope these are all reliable. It would be better if you also include in your page the references that you are using. Thanks! says:
June 3, 2011, at 2:21 pm

We have derived and refined our rules over the years from many textbooks on grammar và punctuation and have kept up with the evolving changes khổng lồ the English language by consulting authoritative reference works such as The Chicago Manual of Style and The Associated Press Stylebook. Including references for every rule would detract from the intent of presenting rules and examples in an accessible, easy-to-understand format.

Mark Ladd says:
November 30, 2015, at 10:33 am

A perusal of the Microsoft ‘spellchecker’ would suggest that an American source is not a very appropriate reference for Englisg grammar — if that is what the subject in hand is considering. says:
December 6, 2015, at 8:13 pm

We vì not consider Spell Checker to be an authoritative source for English grammar.

Tessa says:
March 24, 2016, at 10:22 am

Why is it that “the number” is different khổng lồ “a number”? Isn’t it the same with quantifiers like one of, some of, most & a lot in which when we use them, the verb depends if the noun is uncountable or countable e.i. A lot of noise was heard from there. / A lot of cars were towed away this morning. What is the difference then of using an indefinite và definite articles in the verb that we have lớn use?

Tanish goel says:
February 7, 2012, at 10:52 am

You’re doing a very good work by writing these useful articles. Can you tell me out of these two sentences, ” it’s me” and “its i” , which is a correct one? vày we use “me” or “i” in these kind of sentences?


Alexandra says:
March 6, 2012, at 3:20 pm

This is my sentence: I decided to interview my mentor Maria Davis, R.D.H., M.S., who is one of the full-time tenured faculty members at Lake Washington Institute of Technology.


Do I capitalized her professional tittle? Is it one of the faculty thành viên or members?

Kelly Eastmead says:
May 1, 2012, at 3:07 pm

I cannot find formal rules on the following capitalization dilemma: Once you have defined something in a paper, letter, etc., vì chưng you then capitalize it? Many have said yes. Here are a couple of examples: “On March 15, 2008, my husband and I attended a planning meeting for our child’s upcoming school year. The Meeting focused on our son’s supplemental services…. (here is where I am uncertain. Should “Meeting be capped from the definition of it forward?) Just as when you name a university in a correspondence, is then referred lớn as “the University?” Really appreciate your clarification on this. Thanks, Kelly

Eva says:
May 28, 2012, at 9:01 pm

I just found your helpful website. I have one question regarding the usage of ‘Any’. For example, bởi vì I need lớn use ‘if there is any + Singular noun’ of ‘if there are any plural nouns”? Please advise.

In addition, here is the sentence: I am pleased lớn advise that the Director of Human Resources Department is XXXX. Is the capitalization used in this sentences correct?


yanis says:
July 5, 2012, at 3:04 am

Please give an example without an article, such as, “Number of people … .”

jim says:
August 7, 2012, at 10:16 am

is it Pragmatic or Semantic use of the pluralized noun approvers that has me in the throws of a conundrum? Debating co-worker as to lớn proper use with the following sentence as an example; ‘We need khổng lồ update the system with new Approvers so future projects are not delayed because of approval limits. Once the Approvers limits are adjusted we can kiểm tra our Approver’s patience.’What is right & what is wrong with usage?

Katie West says:
February 27, 2013, at 4:29 pm

I knew this rule about the difference between “the number” and “a number,” but was wondering if it also applies to lớn “a person” and “the person.”

Maybe not, but I’m really stuck on a particular sentence & thought maybe this was the reason.

“Another country can require that the person traveling lớn or through the country have a passport or visa.”

I am 99% sure the verb should be HAVE but I can’t explain why, as the subject is singular. I’ve been told it may have something to bởi with the verb mood, being in this case imperative, I think?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.


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Flakky says:
April 20, 2013, at 3:28 pm

I once read that when there are more than one noun as subject in a sentence, the nearest khổng lồ the predicator determines d verb khổng lồ be used. E.g; Sade, Olu & I am going to lớn the party. Is this really correct?

Mehdi says:
June 23, 2013, at 3:54 am

Great articles, thank you soooo much.

Garrett says:
July 9, 2013, at 12:29 am

I have a question about the difference between “the number of” và “the numbers of”.Could you provide some examples?

Thanks a lot

Melanie says:
September 4, 2013, at 12:09 pm

I was wondering if there were any exceptions khổng lồ this “a” vs. “the” rule? And, does it only apply khổng lồ “number”? Thanks!!!

Sandile says:
September 20, 2013, at 4:08 pm

I’m stuck on how vày we use three articles (the,a,an) in sentence. I don’t knw when to lớn use them correctly. Please help me out

Suhana says:
October 18, 2013, at 2:53 pm

Please let me know if the following sentence is correct :

The average number of books owned by the students was 0.66 in 2010, và this figure increased to 0.87 in the following year.

yadu says:
November 8, 2013, at 2:04 pm

what is the answer of the sentence below? could you help me? thanks in advance!

“He threatened his friend with calling the police if he ——————— the money by the following week.

didn’t return- wouldn’t return-haven’t returned -hadn’t returned- wouldnt have returned?

which one is correct & why?

Kip says:
November 15, 2013, at 4:17 pm

Good advice. I have a question about units with numbers. Which sentence is correct?

The observer shall be at least 15 feet, but not more than 0.25 miles, away from each stationary vent during the observation. Or.

The observer shall be at least 15 feet, but not more than 0.25 mile, away from each stationary vent during the observation.

apol says:
November 16, 2013, at 1:17 am

I’d lượt thích to ask because I’m a bit confuse. Is this correct? “She & her baby is alive?” is it supposed to lớn be are since it’s talking about two persons? If this statement is correct…why kindly explain lớn me please? Thanks says:
November 19, 2013, at 1:44 pm

Since there are two subjects, she and baby, you need the plural verb are. She and her baby are alive.

jasper says:
November 20, 2013, at 7:17 pm

I have some questions & verification if this statement is in correct grammar.

1.On or about 200800H November 2013, two (2) personnel of this unit were dispatched khổng lồ act as Reaction Force: one for dano mines and other one for PF.

2 On or about 200800H November 2013,four (4) kinglong buses were dispatched to lớn CA & PA khổng lồ regular shuttle services for personnel….

MyKey says:
February 20, 2014, at 9:15 am

There are inaccuracies in this article. Whether it’s “a” or “the,” the correct word is “is,” since you’re referring lớn a single number. For example, “There are a number of important announcements in the bulletin.” is inccorect since you’re referring to a number (not numbers) so it should read: “There IS a number of important announcements in the bulletin.”

David says:
September 14, 2014, at 8:29 pm

I have a situation where a paragraph is constructed using lowercase roman numerals along with the word “or”. The paragraph goes something lượt thích this: “… rent will be calculated for any increase in (i) fixed sub-tenent rent or (ii) percentage rent.” Is this particular use of lowercase roman numerals creating a các mục of conditions that apply meaning that rent should be calculated using “either one” or “both” conditions if they exist? Or does it mean that rent will be calculated if either condition exists but not both? I can’t find a mô tả tìm kiếm of this use of lowercase roman numerals in any elements of style guide.

Can someone please help?

Emily G says:
September 25, 2014, at 6:48 pm

Which is correct for a survey title; Number of Countries Third Graders Have Visited OR Number of Countries Third Graders Has Visited


Raul says:
February 17, 2015, at 2:47 pm

Whis khung of the sentence is correct:

“Congratulations! Your thirteen years of service is greatly appreciated.”


“Congratulations! Your thirteen years of service are greatly appreciated.”

Sachin says:
April 20, 2015, at 2:15 am

‘That’ và ‘which’ confuse me a lot:

The number of world cups that India has/have won, which include/includes the ones played outside India, is 2.


A number of world cups that India has/have won were played in India itself.

Robert says:
October 9, 2015, at 1:04 pm

I understand the grammar rule explained in your blog & I agree with it. However, I have khổng lồ admit that I find the following sentences tricky:

Almost the same number of events was detected in 2009 và 2008.

The predominant number of events was located over the ocean.

The prevailing number of vortices was located over the ocean.

In every case, “were” sounds better khổng lồ me than “was.”

Pat says:
April 30, 2016, at 5:41 am

A number of suggestions were made. Numbers of suggestions were made. Is “Numbers of + plural N + plural V” correct gramma? If it correct,could you please tell me how difference between “a number of” & “numbers of”? Thank you in advance.

Erin says:
May 2, 2016, at 1:20 am

Understood ‘a numbers’ vs ‘the number’ but what about when there is a list? Is ‘number’ still the subject or is it s modifier? Example: “The number of businesses, applications and silos have/has increased over the years.”

Eleanor says:
May 27, 2016, at 2:54 pm

What about these sentence: do we say:

There was an endless number of books. Or There were an endless number of books.

Jyothymol V.T says:
July 5, 2016, at 12:12 am

There has/ have been a gradual decline in the number of people who writes / write manually using a pen or pencil.. Please correct it..

Freeman says:
August 22, 2016, at 11:36 pm

When the printing press was invented in the fifteenth century, many early printers of English texts spoke other first languages. They made little effort to lớn respect English spelling. Although one of the short-term effects of printing was lớn produce of variant spellings, in the long term it created fixed spellings.

What’s the reason we cannot say “the number” here?

Thank you.

Dushna says:
July 3, 2017, at 6:17 am

Can you give more examples please??

Myint says:
August 17, 2017, at 7:05 am

why is the number of singular and why is a number of plural?

Lyn says:
March 16, 2018, at 9:18 am

I have always treated ‘number’ as a singular.

Same as:

A plate of cakes is on the table.

The plate of cakes is on the table.

Risnandar says:
May 4, 2018, at 2:57 pm

Which one is correct from the following phrases: (1) Number of convolutional layer (2) Number of convolutional layers (3) Number of convoluting layer (4) Number of convoluting layers (5) Number of layers (6) Number of layer

(7) The number of convolutional layer (8) The number of convolutional layers (9) The number of convoluting layer (10) The number of convoluting layers (11) The number of layers (12) The number of layer

(13) A number of convolutional layer (14) A number of convolutional layers (15) A number of convoluting layer (16) A number of convoluting layers (17) A number of layers (18) A number of layer

In this “number of…” context, I need a better expression to explain a specific case for counting the convolution layer. Somebody wanna change my selected phrase “the number of convolutional layers” khổng lồ “number of layers”. I think it can’t look differences for counting between “convolutional layer” with “layer”. Somebody want to lớn avoid a wrong phrase if I write “the number of convolutional layers”. So he wants to lớn write “number of layers”