the number of/a number of

Vina2010

Senior Member
Spanish-Argentina
Good morning, nice people in this forum!

Can any native speaker help, please? I came across this doubt. In a CPE book, (Cambridge Academic English) I found that
with "a number of+plural noun", we should use a singular verb. However, in that same explanation I found that after a "number of+plural noun/pronoun", we should write a plural verb. I got confused, because that makes me think that both singular and plural can be used.

I would really appreciate it if you could clarify it.

Many thanks, guys!

Have a great day.

Hugs! :)

Vina.
 
  • Vina2010

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Argentina
    Many thanks for answering, Glenfarclas!!! :)

    There is no example. The explanation comes in a frame and says just that. :O This is why I got confused.
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    I think normally "a number of ..." would have a plural sense and take plural verbs. Things like, "There are a number of ways to deal with this problem."

    If the focus is particularly on the number, though, the sense would be singular: "The number of generations from David to Jesus was fourteen."
     

    Vina2010

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Argentina
    Many thanks, Glenfarclas!!!

    Yes, the focus was particularly on the number of as a subject. Got it now. ;)
    Probable that book was referring to "a number of" as a subject, and "there are a number of... "

    Many thanks!!!

    Have a great day!!! =)

    Hugs!

    Vina
     

    Vina2010

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Argentina
    Oh, I am still confused. I found some examples now. :confused:
    (The ones in bold are my attempts)
    The majority of research on Language teaching has/ have focused on English. (has, right? because research is uncountable)
    The number of universities offering foreign language courses has/have declined in the last years.
    A number of studies has/have shown that aspirin can help reduce deaths from heart diseases.
    The majority of cases of eating disorders begins/begin to develop during adolescence.

    I am sooo confused. Sorry, guys! Many thanks afor your help!!!

    Hugs!!!

    Vina. :)
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    You have answered them all as I would have, except that in your second example it is not the universities that "have declined" but the number that "has declined."
     

    Vina2010

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Argentina
    Thanks a million, Glenfarclas!!!!!

    Huge hugs!!! ;)

    Vina
    But isn't it a number of universities and a number of studies the very same case? I wrote plural in one and singular in the other one. :( I am brain-fried today. Then, the same would happen with a majority of. (?)

    Thanks a bunch!

    Hugs!
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    A number of studies has/have shown that aspirin can help reduce deaths from heart diseases.

    The number doesn't show anything; here it is the studies that have shown the effect of aspirin. It therefore makes sense for "have" to correspond with "studies" in the plural.

    In the other example, recall that it was not the universities (plural) that had declined, but the number (singular) of them, and so it made sense to use the singular verb.
     

    Vina2010

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Argentina
    Got it now, Glenfarclas! :)

    Many many thanks! You've been really kind! Thanks a bunch!

    Hope you have a great afternoon!

    Huge hugs!!!

    Vina. :)
     
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