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Which sentence is correct and why?

If the number of unique items is few

If number of unique items are few


  • Should I use the?

  • Should I use number or numbers?

  • should I use is or are?

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up vote 11 down vote accepted
  • Should I use the?

Yes, you should use the article in front of number.

  • Should I use number or numbers?

If it is one set of items you are talking about, it is one number of items, so you use the singular.

  • should I use is or are?

Number is singular, so you use the verb in the singular.

However, there is another point: the use of few. Few means that there is a small number of items, but the number is not few, its is small. So you could say the following:

If there are (only) a few unique items...


If the number of unique items is small...

Mixing them up is comparable to "that item costs expensive", which is a mix of "it is expensive" and "it costs a lot".

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