There was/were a number of

irene.acler

Senior Member
Italiano
Hi.

There was a number of sonnets written by Shakespeare.
There were a number of sonnets written by Shakespeare.

With "a numer of X", is it needed the singular or plural form of the verb?
 
  • dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I feel that "were" is used correctly here.

    There were a number of sonnets written by Shakespeare. :tick:

    I may be wrong, but I think it depends on the article preceding the word "number".
    So if we use "the" (definite article), then we have singular, e.g.

    The number of car accidents has tripled.

    Any opinions of native speakers?
     

    jennball

    Senior Member
    USA English
    "Were" is the right choice, even though "number" is singular. Other singular nouns also need plural verbs when they are followed by "of" phrases: There is a lot to do, but there are a lot of jobs to do. "The number of car accidents has tripled" takes a singular verb because "number" here is used differently, as a mathematical quantity.
     

    mylasalle

    Senior Member
    English - Philippines
    Yes I agree. We really need to look at the object following the preposition "of." This is what will determine if the verb will assume the singular or plural form.

    But languages have many exceptions to its rules so please be careful.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I feel that "were" is used correctly here.

    There were a number of sonnets written by Shakespeare. :tick:

    I may be wrong, but I think it depends on the article preceding the word "number".
    So if we use "the" (definite article), then we have singular, e.g.

    The number of car accidents has tripled.

    Any opinions of native speakers?
    Spot on dn88. It all depends on the article.
    A number of ... -> plural
    The number of ... -> singular

    It makes no difference what follows the of.
     

    mylasalle

    Senior Member
    English - Philippines
    Panjandrum, I do believe the object following the preposition of becomes important in determining the form of the verb. Please allow me to cite the following examples:

    1) A lot of the food has been eaten.
    2) A lot of the students have registered.

    It appears that the object of the preposition of does affect the choice of the verbs above.

    It could be that many exceptions exist leading people to confusion. One particular phrase I can think of is:

    1) None of their plans was known to me. :tick:
    2) None of their plans were known to me. :cross:

    Now I am officially confused myself :eek:
     
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