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Numbers game

Posted by Henry on June 07, 2004

In Reply to: Re: Number one/Question??? posted by SR on June 07, 2004

: : : : : : : : : Which of the above is correct or either one is fine?

: : : : : : : : Are. "Number" is plural.

: : : : : : : Um, well, "number" is singular, but "are" is correct.

: : : : : : At first I also thought it was singular but figured you wordsmiths know better.

: : : : : : If you turn the sentence around it is:
: : : : : : A number of problems are/is there.
: : : : : : If "number" is singular it would take a singular verb--"is"-- since problems is the object of a prepositional phrase.

: : : : : : Knocking out the prepositional phrase and the sentence reads: "A number is there" or "There is a number" which sounds perfectly ok.

: : : : : : But using the singular sounds awkward: "There is a number of problems".
: : : : : : Help!!

: : : : : From the Chicago Manual of Style:

: : : : : Number as a collective noun takes a singular or plural verb depending on the article (definite the or indefinite a) that precedes it:

: : : : : The number of pizzas ordered this year has doubled.

: : : : : but

: : : : : A number of studies have shown that stuffing a pizza with spinach triples the edibility of that sinewy vegetable.

: : : : I did not know that.
: : : : Thanks for the info.

: : : Yeah, great, I like it too. But that sentence! Did it come from the Chicago Manual of Style? It is correct, but a poor example. We see s sentence about stuffing a pizza, and suddenly it becomes a sentence about a vegetable, interrupting the flow. Better to let us know right away that this is a sentence about spinach. Still not good, but possible: "...using spinach as pizza stuffing triples (triples?) the edibility of that sinewy (muscular?) vegetable." SS

: : The usage is idiomatic.
: : THE number of cats/dogs/etc on the street IS increasing.
: : A number of cats/dogs/etc ARE roaming the street.

: : Does the same apply when referring to sports teams? The Detroit Pistons are/is my favourite basketball team!

You can often use either. However, sometimes only one is appropriate.
If you specifically refer to the team, use the singular -
The team was at the top of league table.
If you mean the players, then use the plural -
The team were waving their sticks in the air.