Is "Number" Singular or Plural?

by Craig Shrives

"The Number Of" Is Singular

The phrase "the number" is singular. For example:
  • The number of visitors is increasing. correct tick
  • The number has dropped dramatically. correct tick
  • The number of votes was twenty-two. correct tick
The word "number" is singular when it refers to an arithmetical value. When used in this way, it is preceded by "the."

"A Number Of" Is Plural

The phrase "a number" is plural. For example:
  • A number of visitors are leaving. correct tick
  • A number have disappeared. correct tick
  • A number of votes were lost. correct tick
The word "number" is plural when means "some." When used in this way, it is preceded by "a."
Is number singular or plural?

"A Number" Can be Singular

Be aware that the term "a number" can be singular when it refers to a number symbol (i.e., not a letter). For example:
  • A number is visible beneath the varnish. correct tick

The Difference between "Amount" and "Number"

Use "amount" with a single item. Use "number" with multiple items.
  • A large amount of people wrong cross
  • (This is wrong because "people" is plural.)
  • A large amount of flour correct tick
  • (This is correct because "flour" is singular.)
  • A large number of people correct tick
Here is a real-life example showing the difference between "amount" and "number":
  • At that stage, a huge amount of sugar and a vast number of chocolate buttons are poured in and stirred. There is a short wait and then a seemingly infinite number of chocolates whizz along the belt. correct tick
Read more about using "amount," "quantity," and "number".

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