a very small number of X is/are

Lockers

Member
Polish
A very small number books was/were given, despite the many opportunities to increase it/them.

Which option is correct?
 
  • Lockers

    Member
    Polish
    Thank you. I still have a problem with the second part.

    A very small number books were given, despite the many opportunities to increase them(?).

    Is it correct? I though it sounds strange, because I reference the number, not the books.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Them doesn't work very well since increasing a book doesn't mean increasing the number of books.
    "It" works better since it is clear what is meant by increasing a number, although it is a long way from number and it is not immediately clear what it refers to.

    I would write Very few books were given, despite the many opportunities to increase their number.
     
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