Should I use is or are in this sentence?

100 apples are/is considered as a large number of apples.

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    It isn't what you're asking, but "as a" doesn't set well there. I think we want "100 apples is considered to be a large number of apples." There's an alternative reading (which I think you didn't intend) if you add a comma: "100 apples are considered, as a large number of apples." That means, we're looking at 100 apples because that's a large number of apples. Does this help, or just confuse you more? – Toby Speight Oct 26 '17 at 9:54
  • This is interesting - if you simplify the sentence, it says "...apples are/is ... a ... number" - well, apples aren't a number! ...which is why the sentence doesn't really read properly. There are already some good alternative sentence structures suggested in this post, but my point is, they're not a slightly better option, they are a necessary alternative to correct the grammar! I have often found it really helpful to reduce sentence down to its basic components to find the correct grammar, tenses and plurals. – S.K. Oct 27 '17 at 20:04

Subjects expressing periods of time, amounts of money, or quantities may take either singular or plural verbs depending on whether [they] represent a total amount or a number of individual units. For example, "Four weeks is not enough vacation time" and "Two days have passed since I asked for your response." (Section 2 paragraph 8 of source)

In your example, as the complement ("a large number") is singular, the subject represents a total amount, and so is treated as a singular. I would use is.

Compare that with

100 apples are rolling down the hill.

Here the 100 apples represents 100 individual units, so I use the plural.

The source notes that this is a tricky point, and there is variation among native speakers.

Rephrasing can avoid this issue:

One hundred is considered to be a large number of apples

We consider a hundred to be a large number of apples.

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  • 8
    I think is is more correct, but some people will use are, and you won't be mocked if you get it "wrong". This is one of those cases where native speakers (such as myself) can get tripped up by the apparent plural ("100 apples") and make that agree with the verb, instead of making "a large number" agree. Actually, I'd re-word the sentence to avoid the problem: "We consider 100 apples to be a large number." – Toby Speight Oct 26 '17 at 9:50
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    Being considered a large number is an attribute of the one collection that we are talking about. I too prefer is here. – David Schwartz Oct 26 '17 at 19:40
  • Strongly disagree with the use of is. The verb should agree with its subject; what follows its irrelevant. "Those guys are the only reason I joined this company," is correct; "Those guys is the only reason I joined this company," is not. The same applies here. I think James' comment is the best answer. – Eric Oct 26 '17 at 20:09
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    The verb agrees with the subject. However in this case, a subject that represents a quantity can be treated as singular when it represents an amount. The singular complement is a clue that the subject here is an amount. So the verb agrees with the singular subject, hence "is". I agree with comments that rephrasing is a good idea. The comparison with "those guys are" is deceptive, as "Those guys" doesn't represent an amount. Hence "Those guys are..." is correct. But I note that there is variation. – James K Oct 26 '17 at 21:21
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    Agreed that is works better here: the subject isn't apples, it's the quantity 100. The guys/company example is qualitatively different because the subjects are the guys. A better parallel is "20 guys is/are the reason I joined the company" but this example could go either way depending on whether the particular guys are the reason for joining the company or the fact that there are twenty of them is the reason. – Timbo Oct 27 '17 at 1:00

Both can be considered correct, but I think there are good reasons to prefer "is".

If you say "100 apples are [something]", there's an expectation that what you're saying applies to each apple individually. For example, if I tell you "ten children are playing football", you'd expect me to be able to justify my claim by pointing at each of the children and saying, "That child is playing football." However, if I say "100 apples are a large number", I can't point to any single apple and say "That apple is a large number."

Instead, you're implicitly talking about a single collection of apples. The collection has the property of being a large number, but the individual apples don't.

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  • I disagree with the logic used here. In the example I posted on the accepted answer, "Those guys are the only reason I joined this company," it's not a requirement that I can point to every single one and say they are a reason I joined the company; the collective is responsible. However, using is here would be completely incorrect. – Eric Oct 26 '17 at 20:11
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    "Those" can't be the subject by itself; "guys" is the subject and "those" specifies which guys, presumably among a larger collection of guys. In "100 apples" the subject could either be "100" or "apples" depending on whether you are referring to each apple in the collection or the collection itself. – Timbo Oct 27 '17 at 1:05

One hundred is considered a large number of apples.

One hundred apples is considered a large number of apples.

One hundred would be considered a large number of apples.

  1. A sentence should not begin with a numeral ("100"), but a word.
  2. The verb ambiguity completely disappears if you remove the word "apples" from the beginning. Only "is" can fit, because it's talking about the number, and there is only one number here. You can put "apples" back at the beginning if you want to, but it doesn't add anything to the meaning.
  3. "Considered" or "considered to be" can be used here, but not "considered as".
  4. Optional, but I would use the conditional tense "would be" if it's an opinion, or "is" only if I'm completely sure that people consider it a large number. As a bonus, "would be" doesn't change for singular or plural, so you don't need to worry about the is/are distinction.
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    Your first sentence is slow to parse and confusing – Tim Oct 26 '17 at 18:55

Here are some examples of how a plural noun has nothing to do with verb agreement when the subject is a single entity:

100 apples is a large number of apples. (it's a singular thing called "100 apples")

That barrel of apples is full. (Barrel is singular)

The number of apples you have is large. (Number is singular)

The amount of apples in the warehouse is large. (Amount is singular)

The 100 apples you have there are in a large pile. (100 separate things are...)

100 is a large number (it's not 100 "ones," it's one thing named "100"). The number 100 is large... (again, a number is singular, no matter how high the count).

The orchestra (it) sounds great. Its members (the players) play magnificently.

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Well, it's a horrible sentence for all sorts of reasons:

  • Why is it passive?
  • Why is it so ponderous?
  • Who is doing the considering?
  • What’s the context?

You don’t consider apples in isolation, you consider them with some goal or quality in mind. Try:

“We don't need 100 apples.”

When a sentence sounds that awkward, it’s usually best to rethink it from scratch.

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  • How about "100 apples is a lot of apples." – user3067860 Oct 26 '17 at 19:59
  • @user3067860 - Excellent. Though whether it works, of course, depends on context. – Michael Kay Oct 26 '17 at 20:48
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    Parallel case "The orchestra is/are coming on stage". I have always thought that if they are straggling on one by one, then they are are coming on stage, but if they are coming neatly in line then they is coming onstage. I think that the decisive thing is whether the mental image that I have, or want to convey, focusses on the individuals or the group. – Philip Roe Oct 27 '17 at 2:52
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    @PhilipRoe I doubt anybody would read such subtlety into that example. American English tends to use singular verbs in that sort of situation; British English, plural verbs. Your reader is likely to associate the two verbs with exactly the same meaning. – David Richerby Oct 27 '17 at 7:41
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    I think Philip's comment is interesting, but David's retort is on the money, too. I don't think I'd say "The orchestra are coming on stage" because it just doesn't right, even though it's grammatically acceptable. As for Michael's answer here, it may have sidestepped the original question, but I still think it has valuable and pertinent writing advice. – J.R. Oct 27 '17 at 14:41

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