A large number of bags was or were delivered?

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  • Dretagoto

    Senior Member
    Inglés británico
    In this case, "was", because what is delivered is "a number of bags", and "number" is uncountable, therefore you should use the singular "was".

    If the sentence had been "lots of bags", then it would be "were", because "lots" is plural.

    Because "bags" is plural, though, it sounds better with "were", even if it's not strictly correct. I imagine most native speakers would accept either if they heard it, and not think it odd.
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I would say 'were delivered'.

    But more natural would be 'A lot of bags were delivered'.

    In both cases I would consider the bags as individual items (so plural) rather than consider 'a large number' or 'a lot' as singular entities.

    Cross-posted.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I find was strange. Delivered refers to bags, not to a number.
    Imagine saying A large number of people lives:cross:in India.

    (You might, on the other hand, say A large number of bags was recorded in the document.)
     

    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    I imagine most native speakers would accept either if they heard it, and not think it odd.
    It's certainly natural in British English.

    "Many singular quantifying expressions can be used with plural nouns and pronouns; plural verbs are normally used in this case."

    Swan, Michael, Practical English Usage (3rd edn, 2005.520). Oxford: OUP

    Swan's list of such expressions includes a number of, a group of, a couple of, a lot of, the majority of.
     
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