I hesitate to raise this one but I heard someone talking about Presidential elections in Serbia say "A total of six candidates are standing". Is this correct?
In theory, the subject is "total" and since there is only one, it seems that it should take a singular verb. This is logical nonsense though because it's clear that six people are doing the standing rather than a total. Using "is" would jar however.

What's correct here?
Cheers
Chrissy
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I hesitate to raise this one but I heard someone talking about Presidential elections in Serbia say "A total of six candidates are standing". Is this correct?

Sure. Consider it an idiom if you like. Expressions like that are are construed as plural even if singular in form.
(And note how carefully non-specific I am with my "like that".)
Mark Brader, Toronto Premature generalization is (Email Removed) the square root of all evil.
"A total of six candidates are standing". Is this correct?

Sure. Consider it an idiom if you like. Expressions like that are are construed as plural even if singular in form.

No matter how very plural it is, it still only gets one "are". :-)

Michael Hamm Since mid-September of 2003, AM, Math, Wash. U. St. Louis I've been erasing too much UBE. (Email Removed) Of a reply, then, if you have been cheated, http://math.wustl.edu/~msh210/ Likely your mail's by mistake been deleted.
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I hesitate to raise this one but I heard someone talking about Presidential elections in Serbia say "A total of six candidates are standing". Is this correct?

Yes.
In theory, the subject is "total" and since there is only one, it seems that it should take a singular ... clear that six people are doing the standing rather than a total. Using "is" would jar however. What's correct here?

Trust your ear "are." This one isn't even close. Call it "notional agreement" if you need a label.

Bob Lieblich
A number of men is wearing hats
I hesitate to raise this one but I heard someone talking about Presidential elections in Serbia say "A total of ... clear that six people are doing the standing rather than a total. Using "is" would jar however. What's correct here?

"Is".
But these things, clashes between felicity and grammar (and logic(1)), crop up constantly, and the answer to each is simple: you use the grammatically correct form if you find it agreeable, or you recast to avoid the apparent clash.

A number of men is wearing hats this season.
Many men are wearing hats this season.
A total of six candidates is standing.
All told, six candidates are standing.
What these gentlemen need is some new moral values. These gentlemen need some new moral values.
The only thing that made it real was the dead Legionnaires. The dead Legionnaires were the only thing that made it real.

It is not only questions of number in which such clashes between logical grammar and "feel" can arise:
The eggs were shipped without one's being broken.
The eggs were shipped with no breakage whatever.
(1) Grammar and logic usually agree, but if one has to think through the thing to see the agreement, it is not a felicitous casting.

Cordially,
Eric Walker
My opinions on English are available at
http://owlcroft.com/english /
I hesitate to raise this one but I heard someone ... a total. Using "is" would jar however. What's correct here?

"Is".

Oy!
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I hesitate to raise this one but I heard someone ... a total. Using "is" would jar however. What's correct here?

"Is".

"Total" is notionally plural here. It's like when the Brits say "Kodak are coming out with a new camera..."
Gary Eickmeier
"Is".

Oy!

Here again, I suppose it depends on what "is" means.

\\P. Schultz
I hesitate to raise this one but I heard someone ... six candidates are standing". Is this correct? What's correct here?

"Is". But these things, clashes between felicity and grammar (and logic(1)), crop up constantly,

Nope. It's "are."
"A total of six candidates are standing" is not only perfectly proper and unexceptionable, but it's an axample of a usage that has been part and parcel of good English for at least 600 years. Same with "A number of candidates are..., " "A lot of candidates are...", etc. There is nothing at all ungrammatical or infelicitous about any of them, and absolutely no reason to avoid them.
Don't let the foggy-minded application of a facile, faddish notion of "logic" to a point of English make you unnecessarily recast a good sentence into some less-felicitous paraphrase.

Those who perceive that there is something wrong with this usage ought to read more, to give their intuitions a boost. The public library is that-a-way.
"A grete noumer of the childer of Israel ware slayne." Sir John Maundeville, ca. 1400 A.D.
\\P. Schultz
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