Is the following sentence grammatically correct?

A number of pillars of the ancient temple each count to 16.

I would rather say it like

A number of the pillars of the ancient temple are counted up to 16.

Which one sounds better?

Thank you!

  • Are they using pillar to refer to important people at the temple? If pillar refers to architectural features of buildings, then it sounds odd. It's not clear in what sense each pillar does any counting. The way the sentence is structured doesn't seem to refer to the number of pillars, either. Do you have more context that you can add to your question? – Lawrence Jul 7 '17 at 5:45
  • Neither sounds great. The first is worse - it makes it sound like the pillars are doing counting. You could use the verb number, but it can sound archaic: The pillars of the ancient temple numbered 16. You would use count if there is a subject (a person) that is performing the act of counting. – PMV Jul 7 '17 at 5:49
  • @lawrence the pillars are refering to structural pillars of the temple, not people. I guess it can be simplified like "a number of the pillars of the temple are (total of) 16" but I wondered how I should correct the sentence using "count". I wanted to edit the original sentence as little as possible. – MAT Jul 7 '17 at 5:50
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    "The pillars of the ancient temple are 16 in number." The phrasal verb to count up sounds very unidiomatic in the passive voice, and even as a transitive verb, count makes it sound as if it is the pillars themselves that are doing the counting. Count is the wrong verb here. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Jul 7 '17 at 5:55
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    Please post more context - at least the paragraph surrounding the sentence, and perhaps a paragraph before the quote and a paragraph after the quote as well. – Lawrence Jul 7 '17 at 5:56

Neither sounds good to me at all. When you say a number of something, you are saying an unspecified number, except more than one. Once you do that, you can't say that there are 16 of them. As some of the commenters have said, your first sentence sounds like each member of some group of pillars counts from one to 16. That doesn't sound like what you mean.

Your second sentence doesn't really make sense at all. The closest meaning I can see is that someone starts counting a group of pillars, and stops when he gets to 16. That doesn't sound like what you mean either.

I would simply say this:

The ancient temple has 16 pillars.

However, looking at your further comments, I see that you want to change the original sentence as little as possible. I don't recommend that, because there's no reason to throw extra words into a simple statement. Nevertheless, these would be correct:

The count of the pillars of the ancient temple is 16.
The count of the ancient temple's pillars is 16.
The pillars of the ancient temple number 16.
The ancient temple's pillars number 16.

In both cases, I prefer the ancient temple's pillars to the pillars of the ancient temple.

P.E.Dant's The pillars of the temple are 16 in number is another option.

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  • Now I see more clearly and got the nuance of it. Thank you so much! – MAT Jul 7 '17 at 7:46

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