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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  
To me — it doesn't follow grammar rules.

I'd use "has" in:
«His telephone number has been sent to you»

But in your case, not the number is sent, but invintations.
To me, it means that, while both versions are acceptable, you'll find the latter more often on formal occasions (speeches, official publications...). It's a statement about situational appropriateness, rather than grammatical "correctness". But the effect is slight.

Btw, none of the two versions violate Subject-Verb-agreement. The subject is "a large number of X", not X; depending on how you interpret the phrase, you'll arrive at different agreements.
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DawnstormTo me, it means that, while both versions are acceptable, you'll find the latter more often on formal occasions (speeches, official publications...). It's a statement about situational appropriateness, rather than grammatical "correctness". But the effect is slight.

Btw, none of the two versions violate Subject-Verb-agreement. The subject is "a large number of X", not X; depending on how you interpret the phrase, you'll arrive at different agreements.

Thanks to both of you.

a large number of invitations has been sent

"depending on how I interpret" -- you mean I have the choice to adjust the verb form to the notion the subject suggests to me?

and that it is a matter of taste?

Invitations is the subject, thus, strictly speaking, only plural verb form is okay here. This is what I call grammatical concord as opposed to notional concord.
Hi Incho

Besides Cambridge Advanced Dictionary, which states that "A large number of invitations has been sent" is correct, I cannot find this version in the English usage books that I have. I wonder whether the dictionary has made a typing mistake. I'm not saying I'm better than the lexicographers but, through my experience, dictionaries sometimes make mistakes and when they are detected, the errors will disappear from the new edition.
Inchoateknowledge"depending on how I interpret" -- you mean I have the choice to adjust the verb form to the notion the subject suggests to me?
and that it is a matter of taste?

Invitations is the subject, thus, strictly speaking, only plural verb form is okay here. This is what I call grammatical concord as opposed to notional concord.Sorry, I think I was hasty claiming that. I was making up an ad hoc theory to explain the acceptability of "has" (and didn't even explain it). What I thought was this:

Subject: "a great number of invitations"
Structure "article + modifier + noun1 + of + noun2"
Syntactic concord: usually with noun1: "a cart of apples is...", "a man of secrets is..." etc.
Therefore, syntactically: "a great number of invitations is..."
BUT: "a great number" can be equated with determiners: "many invitations are...", "some invitations are..." etc.
Therefore, after semantic adjustment, concord with "noun2".

The flaw, assertion, or what you call it in my reasoning was "Syntactic concord: usually with noun1". (Really? I don't really have any basis to claim that such a syntactic rule exists. It's an ad-hoc hypothesis, that explains nothing.)

So sorry, again, for any confusion I caused. Just ignore what I said about "interpretations".

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Dawnstorm,

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".
Besides Cambridge Advanced Dictionary, which states that "A large number of invitations has been sent" is correct, I cannot find this version in the English usage books that I have.
It doesn't match the usage of AmE; maybe it's only used in BrE.

For either AmE or BrE, I don't think you can go wrong if you use these 100% of the time:

a ... number of ...s have ...
the ... number of ...s has ...


CJ
It 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.
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