'slightly formal' A large number of invitations has been

SuprunP

Senior Member
Ukrainian & Russian
number
AMOUNT
only singular + singular or plural verb an amount or total
• There has been an increasing number of cases of the disease.
• A small number of children are educated at home.
slightly formal A large number of invitations has been sent.
Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary 3th. Ed.
Having read a few threads here and looked it up in some other dictionaries it would seem to me that 'a number of cases', for example, should be followed by a plural verb. While the dictionary in question maintains that 'a large number of invitations has been sent' sounds slightly formal, it doesn't say so about 'there has been an increasing number of cases of the disease'. As a result, I'm slightly unsure whether 'a large number of invitations' followed by a singular verb should sound slightly formal, or there might be another reason why 'a large number of invitations has been sent' should sound slightly formal, while 'there has been an increasing number of cases of the disease' shouldn't.

Would you be so kind to explain it to me?

Thanks.
 
  • bennymix

    Senior Member
    I think 'number' is one of those words where the technically correct singular verb has not been very robust in usage (where it might, in a strictest sense, be required).

    So many people have chosen the plural verb that it's pretty well accepted, for most cases, at least informally. Sometimes the context gives some clue as to whether the 'number' is a singular blob, or a bunch of individuals.
     
    Last edited:

    Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    - A large number of invitations have been sent.
    "A large number of" = many. The real subject is "invitations". Many invitations have been sent.

    - The number of invitations is ridiculously small.
    Here the subject is "number". The number is small.
     

    SuprunP

    Senior Member
    Ukrainian & Russian
    Thank you bennymix!

    Yes, Hildy1, I know this, though my question is only about 'a number' and the way the dictionary explains the usage thereof, which, in my book, is not very clear.

    Thanks.
     
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