One might say, e.g. "There are a large number of people here." I guess that people think of the phrase "a large number of" as if it is a number.

But since "number" is singular, some would complain that it should be "is" instead of "are".
But OTOH, there's a possible argument for the plural, being used in the collective sense. Just as the plural is applied to collective nouns, when talking of the members rather than of the assembly as a singular entity, I suppose "number" is itself being used as a collective noun and so it follows.
What do you lot think on the matter?
Stewart.

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One might say, e.g. "There are a large number of people here." I guess that people think of the phrase ... is itself being used as a collective noun and so it follows. What do you lot think on the matter?

I think it is a matter of personal preference, but to me...

"There are a . . . " just sounds wrong.
In the same way that "There is two . . ." sounds wrong.

Alec McKenzie
Stewart Gordon wrote on 15 Jun 2004:
One might say, e.g. "There are a large number of people here." I guess that people think of the phrase ... is itself being used as a collective noun and so it follows. What do you lot think on the matter?

Recast the sentence: "There are (a great) many people here".

The grouchy grammarian says that it depends on what the focus of the sentence it, the number or the people.
"A large number of people like chocolate ice cream", but

*"A large number of people likes chocolate ice cream".

Similarly,
"You wanted a large number of people to come to the party. Well,

a) "a large number of people is what you got".
b) "a large number of people have come".
c) *"a large number of people has come".
That's what I think. Just my opinion. The sentences with the asterisks sound and look wrong to me. The others sound and look right. Nobody wants to get into this argument again, because it's been done to death. If you want more, check out the archives of AUE and AEU.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
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One might say, e.g. "There are a large number of people here." I guess that people think of the phrase ... is itself being used as a collective noun and so it follows. What do you lot think on the matter?

This is a bit like the old "none is/are" chestnut. "None" is a shortened form of "not one", therefore takes the singular. But sometimes, the plural just sounds better - "I went to buy some apples, but there was none" or "I went to buy some apples, but there were none" ?
I notice that leftponders are far more keen on the singular for use with "quasi-singular" group names, e.g. the first American edition of The Who's first album was called 'The Who Sings "My Generation"'. The British version was just called 'My Generation', but had it used the 'Sings' tag, I'll bet it would have been 'The Who Sing..'. There are many examples - I've heard 'R.E.M. is a good band - logical, because only one band, but I'd say 'R.E.M *is* a good band', because there are four(?) of them.

Mike M
There are many examples - I've
heard 'R.E.M. is a good band - logical, because only one band, but I'd say 'R.E.M *is* a good band', because there are four(?) of them.

Although I suppose the example just contains a wordo, the concept of a new orthography to represent a reference to a collective group is an interesting one. As a Yank, I would find it unremarkable to use either singular or plural verbs, depending on whether I meant the individuals or the group: "My favorite band was The Byrds." "The Byrds were skilled at vocal harmony." But with asterisks to delimit the verb, it could be taken to mean both a reference to the single collective and to the individuals: "The Byrds was influential in the Folk-Rock genre."
Or maybe not.

rzed
Stewart Gordon wrote on 15 Jun 2004:

One might say, e.g. "There are a large number of ... it follows. What do you lot think on the matter?

Recast the sentence: "There are (a great) many people here". The grouchy grammarian says that it depends on what the ... argument again, because it's been done to death. If you want more, check out the archives of AUE and AEU.

Spot on. Anyhow, in formal English it's usually possible, and better, to avoid the problem. Many of these anomalies arise from spoken English, which is sometimes very different from the more 'artificial' written form. I feel that, as a general rule, written English shouldn't depart far from the spoken kind; but it's often inevitable that it will, and necessary that it should. The clues to understanding spoken English are often not strictly linguistic ('paralinguistic' they called these in my day, but some smart-*** may have changed that, to his own and his DPhil supervisor's satisfaction); and, of course, these aren't available to a writer.
Mike.
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One might say, e.g. "There are a large number of people here." I guess that people think of the phrase ... itself being used as a collective noun and so it follows. What do you lot think on the matter? Stewart.

Gorblimey Donna, can you not put up an FAQ on this? It comes up about three times a week.
Django
One might say, e.g. "There are a large number of people here." I guess that people think of the phrase ... is itself being used as a collective noun and so it follows. What do you lot think on the matter?

Most here think pretty much what you think:
more than one approach can be justified on
the basis of "rules" and "logic". That being
the case, we have to rely on something else
to help us make the choice. Our choice will
be made on the basis of background, education,
exposure to other varieties of English than our
own, and "feel". Ignore those who dogmatically
insist that their way is the only right way.
You can find thousands of words written on
this issue in the archives of this group much
of it good reading, if a bit repetitive.

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia
Mike Lyle wrote on 15 Jun 2004:
Anyhow, in formal English it's usually possible, and better, to avoid the problem.

Yes, this is the very essence of the old adage that discretion is the better part of valor. Unless one is trying to make some kind of statement, avoid problematic constructions.
Many of these anomalies arise from spoken English, which is sometimes very different from the more 'artificial' written form. I ... called these in my day, but some smart-*** may have changed that, to his own and his DPhil supervisor's satisfaction);

They still seem to be called paralinguistic. I've just borrowed Meaning in Language: An Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics (D. Alan Cruse, U of Manchester, OUP, 2000), and he talks about that in his introduction (chapter 1) to the introduction.
and, of course, these aren't available to a writer.

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