a number of vs the number of

jacki221

Member
Korean
Is there any difference between 'a number of' and 'the number of'? For me, it's just 'a' instead of 'the', but I think I've heard there is difference in meaning and grammatical usage.
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hello jacki

    Are you thinking of the fact that we use "the number of X" with a singular verb, whereas we use "a number of X" with a plural verb?

    The number of dishes on the table was enormous.
    A number of dishes were on the table/there were a number of dishes on the table.
     

    soccergal

    Senior Member
    English - US
    The use of the definite article (the) implies that the number is known or can be reasonably estimated. The number of students in my class increases each year. (I'm not giving you the exact number, but I could if you asked)
    The use of the indefinite article (a) implies that the number isn't known or isn't critical information. A number of students were in the hall when the bell rang. I could replace a number of with some without changing the meaning of the sentence.
     

    jacki221

    Member
    Korean
    Thanks a lot, Soccergal. For me(We don't have Articles;;), sometimes they're very confusing. But I think I got what you mean~:)
     
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