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I know the following two sentences are correct:

#1. A cup of water is given to him.
#2. Two cups of water are given to him.

But I'm not sure which of the following is correct:

#3. A group of people is coming.
#4. A group of people are coming.

Should the verb agree with 'group' or 'people'? Thanks.

Ricky
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Anonymous I need an authoritative source to validate my claim to a coworker that both are correct.
Hi,

You might consider citing the The American Heritage® Book of English Usage .

Group as a collective noun can be followed by a singular or plural verb. It takes a singular verb when the persons or things that make up the group are considered collectively: The dance group is ready for rehearsal. Group takes a plural verb when the persons or things that constitute it are considered individually: The group were divided in their sympathies.
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The truth of the matter is that a native is liable to say either. I would suggest:

A group of people is coming tonight. (the group as a unit is pursuing a goal)
A group of people are fighting in the street. (individuals within the group against each other)
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Hi MM,

Are you saying that it is both said and written as such?

A group of people is coming tonight?

A group of people are coming tonight?

Then, is it also the case for these?

There is a group of people there.

There are a group of people there.

(to me, the second sentence doesn't sound right (do I need a comma here???) mainly because of an article "a." )

How about these?

There is a limited number of sports being played today,

There are a limited number of sports being played today.

No-- the group is coming (as a unit) is correct. But natives are still liable to say either, I think, in the heat of the moment.

I'd add a comma.

A (limited) number of is a phrasal quantifier, like a few. There are.
people is a plural word and therefore you would say 'people are coming'

a group of people are coming

this is the correct term.
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No, both are correct. Please read the thread and check your grammar book, Anon.
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I am almost positive there is a thoughtful discussion of this in the MW dict of Eng usage, but I can't figure out what heading it might be under. Any help? I need an authoritative source to validate my claim to a coworker that both are correct.

I tried looking under
noun
verb
plural
singular
mass
unit
group
conjugate
modifier

I wish it were easier to find stuff in there...

thanks!
update to above post: it's under "agreement, subject-verb." thanks!
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 Tanit's reply was promoted to an answer.
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