Grammar doubt

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Carmen13, Aug 25, 2009.

  1. Carmen13

    Carmen13 Groupie

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2005
    Messages:
    1,318
    Likes Received:
    0

    Aug 25, 2009

    There are a finite number of footbal teams?
    There are a finite number of people?

    or

    There is a finite number of footbal teams?
    There is a finite number of people?

    :confused:
     
  2.  
  3. Shanoo

    Shanoo Habitué

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2007
    Messages:
    761
    Likes Received:
    5

    Aug 25, 2009

    I think it's

    There is a finite number

    The word number is a singular word and would there for require a verb in its singular form. Right?

    Oh, I think I've confused myself :)
     
  4. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2002
    Messages:
    18,938
    Likes Received:
    681

    Aug 25, 2009

    There is a finite number of anything at all!

    The complete subject is a finite number, which is singular.
     
  5. Carmen13

    Carmen13 Groupie

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2005
    Messages:
    1,318
    Likes Received:
    0

    Aug 25, 2009

    That's what I thought, but the textbook I am using says "there are". And the websites I searched confused me!
     
  6. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2007
    Messages:
    2,053
    Likes Received:
    218

    Aug 25, 2009

    I think you're being a bit hasty.....

    SINGULAR FORM
    ..........PLURAL FORM
    (1) There is a large number of people.
    ..........There are a large number of people.
    (2) There is a large number of people over there, waving their hands and flashing the peace sign.
    ..........There are a large number of people over there, waving their hands and flashing the peace sign.
    (3) The large number of people over there is waving their hands.
    ..........The large number of people over there are waving their hands.
    (4) A large number of people is out tonight.
    ..........A large number of people are out tonight.
    (5) Any number of people agrees.
    ..........Any number of people agree.
    (6) A large number of people has disappeared.
    ..........A large number of people have disappeared.
    and, dropping the qualifier,
    (7) A large number has disappeared.
    ..........A large number have disappeared.

    [examples taken from the internet, not my own creation. But they illustrate the issue]
     
  7. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2002
    Messages:
    18,938
    Likes Received:
    681

    Aug 25, 2009

    And in all those cases, the singular form is the correct form.

    There is a large number .....
    Any number of people ...
    A large number ...

    All are singular.
     
  8. Carmen13

    Carmen13 Groupie

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2005
    Messages:
    1,318
    Likes Received:
    0

    Aug 25, 2009

    Thank you.
     
  9. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2007
    Messages:
    5,276
    Likes Received:
    1

    Aug 25, 2009

    ...because number is the noun being described by the adjective large, which does not denote plurality. Just my :2cents:
     
  10. WindyCityGal606

    WindyCityGal606 Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2006
    Messages:
    2,468
    Likes Received:
    12

    Aug 25, 2009

    uh huh
     
  11. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2005
    Messages:
    4,395
    Likes Received:
    7

    Aug 26, 2009

    But can 'number' be considered a collective noun? In which case, it would take a plural verb?
     
  12. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2005
    Messages:
    4,395
    Likes Received:
    7

    Aug 26, 2009

    (Incidentally, this is precisely why I love math, and loathe grammar. 2+2=4. Always. It doesn't become 5 when you add a modifier, or 3 if you change the order.)

    Ok, TG, bring it on! I can take it, oh grammar maven!
     
  13. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,170

    Aug 26, 2009

    Hm. Carmen, is this a grammar book or a math book?
     
  14. Carmen13

    Carmen13 Groupie

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2005
    Messages:
    1,318
    Likes Received:
    0

    Aug 26, 2009

    It is a math book called "Mathematics all around".

    In the solution to one of the examples it says:

    "There are a finite number of people living in the United States who are not citizes (...)"
     
  15. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2007
    Messages:
    2,053
    Likes Received:
    218

    Aug 26, 2009

    "A large number have disappeared"

    169,000 hits on Google.

    "A large number has disappeared"

    2 hits on Google, one of them being the other post on this thread (maybe 3 now, after I post this).

    One posting elsewhere suggests this as a rule:

     
  16. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,170

    Aug 26, 2009

    Carmen, you wouldn't take a grammar book as authoritative in math: correspondingly, it's probably best not to take a math book as authoritative in grammar.

    "A finite number" should have been singular, and in formal grammar "a number" should be singular, but in common use "a number of" is used as a collective noun with the meaning "lots", and in that sense - where the focus is on the bunches of cars rather than on a specific numeral - the plural is certainly attested.

    3Sons, I'm not sure that quantities of examples on the Internet should be taken as representative of formal grammar either: consider how much of what you've seen would come from discussion boards such as this, on which the tone is decidedly conversational.
     
  17. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2002
    Messages:
    18,938
    Likes Received:
    681

    Aug 26, 2009

    What took you so long, TG? I was waiting for backup and you provided it beautifully, of course. There are many rules broken in everyday spoken English. (Doesn't make them right, though...)

    Here's my pet peeve. Canceled used to be the only correct spelling of the word. Because nobody would believe that and repeatedly spelled it like this - cancelled - the customary and acceptable spelling has been changed to include that version. I say, "No, no, no. That is unacceptable." Now, cancellation should have two l's because we hear the second one when the word is spoken orally. Okay, this is a different rant entirely, I guess.
     
  18. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2002
    Messages:
    18,938
    Likes Received:
    681

    Aug 26, 2009

    Football teams are practicing.
    A number of football teams is practicing.
     
  19. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,170

    Aug 26, 2009

    "Cancelled" has been the British spelling for years. In any case, see also excel/excelled, propel/propelled, extol/extolled.

    ('daisy, do I really not deserve time off for good behavior??)
     
  20. greengables

    greengables Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2009
    Messages:
    97
    Likes Received:
    0

    Aug 26, 2009

    Upsadaisy re: canceled

    Yes, yes, yes. Even my daughter notices this (on airline pics) and says the double ll is wrong. We also critique news banners-where DO they get those typists? :D
     
  21. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2002
    Messages:
    18,938
    Likes Received:
    681

    Aug 26, 2009

    Yes, TG, but it's been a long time since we were British. And you must put in a request in writing for time off.

    greengables, doesn't it get under your skin when you see the inaccuracies in a business's own advertising?
     
  22. greengables

    greengables Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2009
    Messages:
    97
    Likes Received:
    0

    Aug 26, 2009

    The worst ones are the ticker tapes of the major news org. on TV.
     
  23. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,170

    Aug 26, 2009

    (mildly)

    I myself use the double-l spelling.

    Just for the "ell" of it, of course.
     
  24. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2002
    Messages:
    18,938
    Likes Received:
    681

    Aug 26, 2009

    :eek:

    I am shocked and appalled.
     
  25. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,170

    Aug 26, 2009

    Dealllll with it, dear.
     
  26. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2007
    Messages:
    5,276
    Likes Received:
    1

    Aug 27, 2009

    Hey TG - what ever happened to the past tense verb pled (as in, "the suspect pled guilty")? All I ever hear our great and wonderful newscasters say anymore is "the suspect pleaded guilty." While this may be acceptable, it just sounds so wrong to my ears, lol!
     
  27. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,170

    Aug 28, 2009

    Plead is evidently being reanalyzed from a past tense formed by change of the stem vowel, as with lead/led, to a past tense formed by regular ol' suffixation (as in bead/beaded). I'm not necessarily happy about it myself - but such is the fate of irregularity in language: it tends to be leveled.

    Except, of course, when it doesn't, as in sneak/snuck.
     
  28. Mamacita

    Mamacita Aficionado

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2004
    Messages:
    3,319
    Likes Received:
    12

    Aug 28, 2009

    It is the SUBJECT that determines the number of the verb, not the object of the preposition.

    Even if "number" is used as a collective noun, the verb is still singular.

    A herd of cows is grazing across the fence.

    Herd is the subject, is grazing is the verb phrase. Of cows is a prepositional phrase, and no part of a prepositional phrase will ever be the subject OR the verb, and the number of the object of the preposition does not determine the number of the verb.

    I love grammar. It's so precise and elegant, and once you thoroughly learn the rules, you can break 'em right and left.

    It's almost always easy to tell, however, who is breaking the rules because of skill and who is breaking the rules because he/she doesn't know any better.

    (Collective nouns are almost always singular; they take a singular verb, and are referred to by a form of the pronoun "it," unless you're close enough to see the giggle bits.)

    (A business that doesn't care enough about its public face doesn't get any of my business. If they're careless in one place, they're probably careless everywhere. Count your change carefully!)

    And how about those hand-lettered signs by the cash register that say "No checks excepted"? Hilarious. I don't go there twice.
     
  29. glaciergirl

    glaciergirl Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2009
    Messages:
    51
    Likes Received:
    0

    Aug 28, 2009

    There is is the correct way. Number is the noun, it's singular, not plural, therefore you do not use are.
     
  30. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2002
    Messages:
    18,938
    Likes Received:
    681

    Aug 28, 2009

    Thank you, Mamacita.
     
  31. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2007
    Messages:
    2,053
    Likes Received:
    218

    Aug 28, 2009

    I don't actually have a copy of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, 2nd ed. [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965], which the below site references, but apparently H.W. Fowler disagrees.

    http://grammartips.homestead.com/number.html
     
  32. blindteacher

    blindteacher Cohort

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2009
    Messages:
    568
    Likes Received:
    0

    Aug 28, 2009

    In spoken language, it certainly feels more natural to say "There are a finite number of football players," because semantically speaking, we're talking about the football players, which is a group of people -- plural. But grammatically speaking, the correct answer would be "There is a finite number..." because the verb must agree with the object, which here is "a finite number." "Of football players" is a prepositional phrase added onto the object.

    The reason the Google search comes up with a lot more results when you search with "are" is because in our minds, we think of the "a finite number of players" as a plural entity, so we are more inclined to choose the plural verb form. And most things we find on the Internet are spoken English in written form, rather than formal written English. :)
     
  33. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,170

    Aug 28, 2009

    Presentative sentences in a great many world languages take plural complements. Hay in Spanish translates 'it is' or "there is'; it comes from Spanish 'have' and is or was grammatically singular, but a plural complement is perfectly possible (Hay muchas palabras 'there are many words'); il y a in French is literally 'it there has', but il y a des bêtes exotiques 'there are exotic animals' is fine; in German es gibt is literally 'it gives' but Es gibt drei Studenten 'there are three students' is fine. To the argument that these forms in these languages have become fossilized I will respond only that similar fossilization is the likeliest fate for English there is - and that that doesn't much bother me.
     
  34. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2007
    Messages:
    5,276
    Likes Received:
    1

    Aug 29, 2009

    Bravo, TG!
     
  35. Carmen13

    Carmen13 Groupie

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2005
    Messages:
    1,318
    Likes Received:
    0

    Aug 29, 2009

    Thank you so much! I'm relieved to know that I was thinking the right way.
    I realize that Portuguese and English grammar have its differences, but I'm glad there is a common ground as well.
     
  36. Carmen13

    Carmen13 Groupie

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2005
    Messages:
    1,318
    Likes Received:
    0

    Aug 29, 2009

    In Portuguese:

    um número finito de pessoas. (There is a finite number of people)

    muita gente na praia. (There are a lot of people at the beach)
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

Total: 397 (members: 0, guests: 372, robots: 25)
test