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When we count objects, we can say

  • The number of apples is two.

  • The number of oranges is three.

I am wondering how to combine these two sentences.

Can I say that:

The number(s) of apples and oranges is five.

I want to know if I need "s" in numbers (because I am talking two different numbers).

Or can I say:

The number(s) of apples and oranges are different.

The number(s) of apples and oranges are two and three.

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  • 1
    How can you use "numbers" when you only have one number (five)?
    – user3169
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 6:49
  • @user3169 Ok, that makes sense. I added one more sentence. In that case, do I need "s"?
    – Eng
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 6:53
  • I added another.
    – Eng
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 7:13

1 Answer 1

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The expression "the number of" emphasizes a precise quantity. It is used when the exact number is important, not just the fact that there are many (it would be a number of then) and it takes a plural noun followed by a singular verb. So it would be:

The number of apples and oranges is five.

The number of apples and oranges is two and three (respectively).

This agrees with the basic rule of Subject-Verb Agreement:

A singular subject (here - the number) takes a singular verb (here - is).

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  • Why not "amount"? Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 12:09
  • Wouldn't "The numbers of apples and oranges" be a request for separate counts of apples and oranges (multiple numbers)? It's clunky, but wouldn't it be technically correct?
    – fixer1234
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 17:05

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