There are a wide number of people

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Vina2010

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

I know this issue has many threads, but I am a little bit stuck with this sentence. A student of mine wrote this in a composition:

There are a wide number of people ordering meals // a wide number of problems arise

I guess the verb should be in the singular, right?. I found many different opinions about a number of/ a range of. Probably, I would go with a wide number of problems arise and leave it in the plural; but the first one does sound awkward to me.

Can anybody help? Many thanks!!!

Hugs! :)

Vina
 
  • JordyBro

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    The verb should stay plural. "a wide number of people" is a phrase which refers to multiple people.
     

    JordyBro

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    I don't want to go too off-topic but "wide number" and "large number" have different uses. Wide number expresses both quantity and variety, large only expresses quantity. For example, twenty shades of red are a large number of colours but not a wide number of colours.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi Vina2010

    The rule of thumb is "a number of X" + plural verb; "the number of X" + singular verb.

    So your student was right to use plural verbs. However, we don't say "wide number"; we say "large number":).

    ----------

    Cross-posted with lots of people!

    ----------

    Jordy, I'm intrigued - I've never heard/seen "wide number of". Have you got any examples (written by other people, obviously:D)?
     

    JordyBro

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    I've heard it used enough myself. The first example I found was this headline :

    A wide number of trials is required to achieve acceptable ...

    (www(dot)gaitposture(dot)com/article/S0966-6362%2811%2900408-5/abstract?cc=y)
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    My instinct is the same as Loob's, although there are a small number of examples of a wide number in the BNC corpus.

    it is possible that some people write a wide number of people instead of a wide range of people, but range would be much more common in BE.
    A large number of people means many people, which refers to the quantity (as JordyBro said).
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I've heard it used enough myself. The first example I found was this headline :

    A wide number of trials is required to achieve acceptable ...

    (www(dot)gaitposture(dot)com/article/S0966-6362%2811%2900408-5/abstract?cc=y)
    Can you give the actual link please, Jordy?

    I'd like to read it - but my instant reaction is that "a wide number of trials" is wrong. I'd happily say "a large number of trials"; I'd equally happily say "a wide variety of trials" or "a wide range of trials". But "a wide number of trials"? Sorry, no, I couldn't say/write that:(.

    -------

    cross-posted with e2:)
     

    JordyBro

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    Can you give the actual link please, Jordy?

    I'd like to read it - but my instant reaction is that "a wide number of trials" is wrong. I'd happily say "a large number of trials"; I'd equally happily say "a wide variety of trials" or "a wide range of trials". But "a wide number of trials"? Sorry, no, I couldn't say/write that:(.

    -------

    cross-posted with e2:)
    I did give a link, but I found another use of "a wide number of" quickly since I believe there is some kind of a paywall/account-requirement on the first. This ones a question on yahoo using "a wide number of".

    What caused Christianity to appeal to a wide number of people?
    answers(dot)yahoo(dot)com/question/index?qid=20120104191821AAzonbP
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Please give the actual link, Jordy, rather than inserting "dot":) Otherwise, you're just creating work for people:eek:
     

    Szkot

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The original reference was written by academics at a German university, most of them with German-sounding names. Perhaps not native-speakers. The second is anonymous.

    I am with the others on this - 'wide number' does not sound right to me.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I take it you're on a smart phone or tablet?
    No, I'm mainly on a PC and a laptop.
    ... the reason I avoided links is for my first post on this site I tried posting a link and it said there were problems with spam...
    New posters can't post links.
    Thank you. As Szkot has already said, these may well not have been written by native speakers of English.
     

    Vkngr

    New Member
    English - England
    I'm sorry to go against the grain but, as a native British English speaker, the use of a plural verb conjugation sounds rather odd to me indeed. Surely it must be singular to fit the singular noun?
    Perhaps this is agreement uncommon outside of Britain?

    Edit:
    I would say "there are a large number of people" not "there are a wide number of people".
    I notice that you live in or are native to London, which means that this plural agreement with a singular noun is indeed used more widely than I thought in Britain. It seems so odd to me that you placed plural verb form and singular article + noun together like that. Perhaps it's because I'm from further north of England?

    Is this perhaps related to the non-standard use of plural found commonly in to be in some regions? For example, one may hear, in certain parts of the country, I were, he/she/it were in the indicative mood?

    Would anybody be able to shed any light on dialectal influence?
     
    Last edited:

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    I would say "there are a large number of people" not "there are a wide number of people".
    I'm in complete agreement with Se16Teddy, Loob, E2efour, and Szkot. In AE as in BE, we would say "a large number of people", not a "wide" number.

    The verb, are, is of course correct. We'd never say that a number of people "is" ordering meals.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    (@Vkngr) Does that mean that you prefer the B sentences below?

    A1 There are a number of things that I don't like about him.
    A2 In the west of England there are a number of apple growers who go for this variety.
    A3 There are a number of suggestions I would like to make.

    B1 There is a number of things that I don't like about him.

    B2 In the west of England there is a number of apple growers who go for this variety.
    B3 There is a number of suggestions I would like to make.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    As a native speaker from the south of England I agree with Parla, e2efour and others. All the A sentences in post #18 are correct for me. The others seem very odd.


    From the Free Dictionary
    number· n.
    Usage Note: As a collective noun number may take either a singular or aplural verb. It takes a singular verb when it is preceded by the definite article the: The number of skilled workers is small. It takes a plural verb when preceded by the indefinite article a: A number of the workers are unskilled.
    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights
     

    Vina2010

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Argentina
    Wow! I see that I aroused a discussion with the question; and first of all, I'd like to thank everybody for your kindness and help.

    As Vkngr said, I also thought about the singular article and a plural verb. It was odd to see "there are a wide number of". Of course A number of people are... but what made me think was the use of there are "a number of".
    Anyway, many thanks for your cooperation, guys!!!

    Huge hugs!

    Vina :)
     

    Vkngr

    New Member
    English - England
    (@Vkngr) Does that mean that you prefer the B sentences below?

    A1 There are a number of things that I don't like about him.
    A2 In the west of England there are a number of apple growers who go for this variety.
    A3 There are a number of suggestions I would like to make.

    B1 There is a number of things that I don't like about him.

    B2 In the west of England there is a number of apple growers who go for this variety.
    B3 There is a number of suggestions I would like to make.
    Yes, I'd prefer B.

    If I were to want to employ a plural verb, I suppose I'd rephrase with there are numerous or a similar construction.
     

    Vina2010

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Argentina
    Me too, Vkngr. But according to everybody's answers, it seems to me that I was confused and wrong. :(

    Many thanks!

    Hugs!

    Vina
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    (@Vkngr) Does that mean that you prefer the B sentences below?

    A1 There are a number of things that I don't like about him.
    A2 In the west of England there are a number of apple growers who go for this variety.
    A3 There are a number of suggestions I would like to make.

    B1 There is a number of things that I don't like about him.

    B2 In the west of England there is a number of apple growers who go for this variety.
    B3 There is a number of suggestions I would like to make.
    There are many other threads in which it is explained that the A sentences are preferred.

    Singular/plural - There is or are + a <number><lot><variety> of (singular verb?/ plural verb?)

    Please read this thread, and the onward links.
    If you have a convincing argument, with supporting evidence, for using the B group of sentences, you are welcome to post it all here.

    Edit: Following closure of this thread to avoid needless repetition of the discussion, you are welcome to post your comments on any of the linked threads, not on this thread, which has been closed.
     
    Last edited:

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Moderator Note.
    This topic has been thoroughly discussed in other threads.
    There is no point in repeating the discussion here.
    Anyone wishing to discuss whether we should say "there is a number of" or "there are a number of", is welcome to choose one of the earlier threads, read it thoroughly, and contribute if appropriate.
     
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