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Hi

".A large number of invitations have been sent.
A large number of invitations has been sent. (slightly formal)"


a number of means several and is a quantifier that modifies the subject invitations in the above sentences.

My question is:

"A large number of invitations has been sent." In this case, what does slightly formal mean?

Does it mean that it does not follow the strict grammatical rules (SV agreement), therefore not so formal?

Or does it mean something else?

thx
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Comments  (Page 2) 
Yoong LiatIt is not BrE either. All the English usage books I have touch on BrE. I've come across "A number of ..." in many usage books and the verb that follows is always 'are'. But when it is "The number of ...", then 'is' is used with it.

A large number of students is -- notional concord means the students are regarded as a group.

A large number of students are -- grammatical concord means students are; or notional concord means students are considered as individuals

Both is and are are are correct
Ant_222Dawnstorm, I don't like syntax-level rules for their formality. What do you think of my explanation? In English number can mean both multiplicity and a number in math sense. In "A number of invitations" the former is the case. «A multiplicity (set) of invitations haS been sent to you». To avoid confusion caused by the two meanings of "number", it's better to say "have been sent".
Hi,

I think your explanation is as plausible as mine. By that I mean that it's possible to justify usage with such rationalisations, but that we have no evidence that this kind of reasoning (in the form of internalised intuition) goes into the creation of such phrases at all.

I tend to apply to rules:

1. When in doubt, I don't use a construction myself.
2. When in doubt, I don't correct another person's construction.

Though I may voice my doubts in both cases, to learn things about language.

***

I've been trying to find examples of "a number of people has", "a great number of people has", and "a large number of people has".

Results:

"a number of people has" - 366 hits; most irrelevant (e.g. "My admiration for a number of people has...")
"a great number of people has" - 25 hits; the relevance seems to be a bit higher, and the relevant cases do support that people "are viewed as a group" (e.g. "Already a great number of people has gathered in Rejkjavik city square..."), but 25 is such a low number that it doesn't really convince me.
"a large number of people" - 289 hits; again relevance is low. (Intrestingly a lot of the relevant hits are in the passive voice: "a large number of people has been exposed to...", "a large number of people has to be trained...".)

All in all, Google results don't convince me of the respectability of "has" in that case. ("a large number of people have" yields over 50.000 hits, and "a number of people have", over 450.000!)

Now, I don't expect google to be an expert on grammar, but if word strings are outnumberd by a factor of a thousand...

***

I wonder, does "a number of people has" disrupt ny reading flow? (If it doesn't, I wouldn't know, would I?)
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Let me quote from 'Fowler's Modern English Usage'.

The expression a number of + plural noun as in a number of people NORMALLY takes a plural verb in both BrE and AmE, because the plural noun is regarded as the 'head' of the noun phrase and therefore as the real subject: A number of books by ballerinas have been published lately - New Yorker, 1987. By contrast, the expression the number of + plural noun, in which the head of the phrase is number and not the noun, takes a singular verb: The number of MPs has increased - Daily Telegraph, 1987.
Hi, Dawnstorm

«I've been trying to find examples of "a number of people has", "a great number of people has", and "a large number of people has".
...
Now, I don't expect google to be an expert on grammar, but if word strings are outnumberd by a factor of a thousand...»

Yes. And these results second my explanation or, at least, do not contradict it. Google can be very helpful when it's needed to check whether a phrase is ok (in google terms - used widely) or wrong (used rarely). But only grammar rules and "explanations", having been derived by induction, help us speak/write correctly through the use of deduction.

«I wonder, does "a number of people has" disrupt ny reading flow? (If it doesn't, I wouldn't know, would I?)»

So, does it or not?
I don't think 'handphone' is used in BrE or AmE. However, if you search for the word in Google, you will find many, many hits.
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What is the subject in this sentance, is it 'A (large) number' or 'invitations'?
In the sentance: 'One of the boxes is open', the word 'one' is the subject and we make the verb agree so singular 'is'.
If 'A (large) number' is the subject then wouldn't the verb need to agree, again singular 'has'?
Hello Anon

1. One of the boxes is open.

2. A large number of invitations were/was sent out.

In #1, only one box is open, so the verb is singular.

In #2, some people would say "was", and some people would say "were".

The "was" party would say that "a large number" was the subject of the verb.

The "were" party would say that "invitations" was the implicit subject of the verb, and that "a large number" premodifies "invitations" in the same way that "many" might.

I myself would use "were"; but I probably wouldn't notice if someone said "was".

MrP

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Edit:

Apologies to other posters on this thread: when I replied to Anon's post, I took it for the start of a new thread.
Yoong LiatI don't think 'handphone' is used in BrE or AmE. However, if you search for the word in Google, you will find many, many hits.
Well, it's not in the free MW online, nor in the Cambridge online ... but ... if you have the Oxford Adv, here it is!

"hand·phone 'h&ndfJUn; NAmE -foUn/ noun

used in SE Asia as the word for a mobile phone / cellphone"
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Yes, 'handphone' is S.E. Asian English. Therefore, the word is not recognised, so it is not advisable to use that word. I'm aware that the word is found in the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary and it states it is used in S.E. Asia, so it is not recognised in British or American English.

"Mobile phone" is BrE while 'cellphone' is AmE. In BrE, 'mobile' is also used to refer to 'mobile phone'.
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