Subject verb agreement is one of the most important rules in English grammar. It ensures that the subject and verb in a sentence agree in number, meaning that if the subject is singular, the verb must also be singular, and if the subject is plural, the verb must also be plural. However, the rule can become a bit tricky when dealing with phrases like “a number of” or “the number of.” In this article, we will focus on “a number of” and discuss how to ensure subject verb agreement in sentences containing this phrase.
Firstly, it is important to understand what “a number of” means. It is a phrase used to describe a quantity of something that is more than one but not specified. For example, “a number of people attended the party.” In this sentence, we do not know exactly how many people attended the party, but we know that it was more than one.
When “a number of” is used as the subject of a sentence, it can be confusing as to whether the subject should be treated as singular or plural. The answer to this question is that it depends on the context of the sentence.
If the noun that follows “a number of” is singular, the verb should be singular as well. For example, “A number of students was present at the assembly.” In this sentence, even though “a number of” refers to a quantity greater than one, the subject “students” is still singular, and therefore the verb “was” is also singular.
On the other hand, if the noun that follows “a number of” is plural, the verb should be plural as well. For example, “A number of students were absent from school today.” In this sentence, “students” is a plural noun, and therefore the verb “were” is also plural.
It is important to note that “a number of” is not the same as “the number of.” “The number of” always takes a singular verb because it refers to a specific quantity, whereas “a number of” refers to an unspecified quantity greater than one. For example, “The number of students in the class is twelve.” In this sentence, “the number” is a singular subject, and therefore the verb “is” is also singular.
In conclusion, subject verb agreement can become tricky when dealing with phrases like “a number of.” Remember to pay attention to the noun that follows the phrase and ensure that the verb agrees in number. If the noun is singular, use a singular verb, and if it is plural, use a plural verb. By following this simple rule, you can ensure that your writing is grammatically correct and easy to read.