Scientific Writing: "A Number Of" And "The Number Of"


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.

If the article or the existing discussions bởi not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.
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57 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 & refined our rules over the years from many textbooks on grammar and punctuation và 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.

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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 bởi not consider Spell Checker khổng lồ be an authoritative source for English grammar.

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

Why is it that “the number” is different to “a number”? Isn’t it the same with quantifiers lượt thích 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 & definite articles in the verb that we have to lớn use?

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

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

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” and “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 to lớn this “a” vs. “the” rule? And, does it only apply lớn “number”? Thanks!!!

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 lớn 0.87 in the following year.

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


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

‘That’ & ‘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 lớn admit that I find the following sentences tricky:

Almost the same number of events was detected in 2009 and 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” và “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 & silos have/has increased over the years.”

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

What about these sentence: vì 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 respect English spelling. Although one of the short-term effects of printing was to 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.

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

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

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

I have always treated ‘number’ as a singular.

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