a large number has / have?

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A large number of invitations has / have been sent.

Should 'has' or 'have' be used?
Veteran Member8,073
Approved answer (verified by )
Strange, perhaps, but:

a number of Xs is plural.
the number of Xs is singular.

CJ
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Which, do you think, is the subject in this sentence, Yong?Emotion: thinking
I am asking because the verb has to be in singular/plural concord with it.

A large number of invitations has / have been sent

It is number and not numbers -- singular accord -- number has
Senior Member2,552
After "a number of..." we normally use a plural verb, e.g.
- "A number of questions were asked." (Unit 79 'Oxford Practice Grammar')
- "A number of us are worried about it." (Page 61 Swan's 'How English Works')

That site(*) you mentioned, Inchoateknowledge, in another posting gives an example of how a singular verb can be used in a more formal setting:

"SLIGHTLY FORMAL: A large number of invitations has been sent."

(*)
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Hi Ann

"SLIGHTLY FORMAL: A large number of invitations has been sent." What I don't understand is it should be "A large number of invitations have been sent" and yet 'has' is used in the sentence quoted by you. Furthermore, it is SLIGHTLY FORMAL. What does 'slightly formal' mean? I thought that it should be be 'slightly informal' instead.
Yong,

Slightly formal means it is slightly more frequent that this construction appears in formal speech than in informal one.
Why did you think it is more like informal to say number has
InchoateknowledgeYong,

Slightly formal means it is slightly more frequent that this construction appears in formal speech than in informal one.
Why did you think it is more like informal to say number has
I had the impression that 'formal' is more correct, while 'informal' means that it is used more in conversation than in written form. So, since, strictly speaking, it should be "A number of invitations have been sent out", the version with 'has' should be informal.

Number. Like other collective nouns number may take either a singular or a plural verb. Unlike most of them, it admits of a simple and logical rule. When all that it is doing is forming part of a composite plural subject, it should have a plural verb, as in:
A large number of people are coming today.
But when it is standing on its own legs as the subject it should have a singular verb, as in:
The number of people coming today is large.
The following are accordingly unidiomatic:
There is a number of applications, some of which were made before yours.
There is a large number of outstanding orders.
The true subjects are not "a number" and "a large number" but "a-number-of-applications" and "a-large-number-of-outstanding orders".
Of the following examples the first has a singular verb that should be plural and the second a plural verb that should be singular.
There was also a number of conferences calling themselves peace conferences which had no real interest in peace.
The number of casualties in H.M.S. Amethyst are is thought to be about fifteen.
Those kind of things. The use of the plural these or those with the singular kind or so

From
Troubles With Number http://www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/gowerse/complete/chap904.htm
New Member09
Yoong LiatA large number of invitations has / have been sent.

Should 'has' or 'have' be used?

It depends on whether we want notional, or grammatical concord.

http://www.bartleby.com/68/28/4128.html

grammatical concord means number is singular, thus the verb has is singular
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