A big number

vtg81

Senior Member
Italian
Hello

I'm taking this test:

Which adjective cannot be used to complete the sentence: A_____________number of companies are reducing their workforce.
A) big
B) great
C) large
D) considerable

I know great, large and considerable are correct, but I can't understand what's wrong with "a big number of". Is it just a matter of collocation?

Thank you
 
  • JamesM

    Senior Member
    "Big" does sound odd in this context, vtg81, but I can't give a good reason for it. In some contexts it would sound natural to me, such as:

    A: He was offered a huge salary.
    B: Really? How much?
    A: I don't know know specifically, but I know it was a big number.


    In the context you provided, though, it sounds odd to me. I wish I knew why.
     

    ajo fresco

    Senior Member
    Of the choices, I'd say "a large number of companies" sounds the most natural. "Considerable" would work, too, in certain contexts.
    (Or a "great big" number of companies. :D)

    I think the best way to express this is simply:
    Many companies are reducing their workforce.

    Sorry, I know that's not one of the options. :eek:
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Since nobody has put their finger on why they wouldn't use "big", I'm going to give it a try... "big" has a certain physicality in my mind. When I think of anything "big", I think of something physical like a box, a building, a car, an apple, a bag of groceries. There is always a form/shape to something that I describe as "big". As a result, a "big number of companies" doesn't work.
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    Which adjective cannot be used to complete the sentence: A_____________number of companies are reducing their workforce.
    A) big:tick:
    B) great
    C) large
    D) considerable

    We can have 'a big number' (708,000,001) but not 'a big number of X.'

    I agree with Dimcl that 'big' has a strong connection with physicality.
    If I say 'a large workforce' I am less likely to imagine tall/fat people than if I were to say 'a big workforce'.
     
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