a/the number of (the) students...


Senior Member
Hello, there,
I have learnt the usage of "a number of" and "the number of" in this forum, for example:
The number of students in my school is 850.
A number of students think I'm a little shy.

The word "is" is a singular. And the word "think" is a plural just because of the different meanings of "the number of" and "a number of".

But there are still two things I want to know,
1. Can I use "the" before the word "students" in both of the sentences?
2. And in the second sentence, can "a number of students" mean "some students", and "a number of the students" mean "some of the students"?

Many thanks!
  • jmichaelm

    Senior Member
    English - US
    In AE we routinely use "a number of" to mean "a significant number of." We use "some" to be more neutral, not to imply a relatively large percentage.

    Some of the people in the room wore hats. = There was more than one person wearing a hat.
    A number of people wore hats. = A larger number of people than you might expect were wearing hats.
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