Number(s) of + . . . OR . . . + number(s)?

Are they equivalent?

1. The line graph shows average numbers of patients `using` public hospitals every month, from 1990 to 2000.

2. The line graph shows average patient numbers `at` public hospitals every month, from 1990 to 2000.

And if yes, that means you CAN NOT say:

"The line graph shows average patient numbers `using` public hospitals every month, from 1990 to 2000."

Since:

• "Patient numbers" is considered figures because the word "patient" acts as an adjective describing the word "numbers". The sentence would probably be interpreted as figures using public hospitals.

Am I right?

`Thank you very much :).`

3 Answers

Yes, you are!

• "the/a number(s) of patients" is considered humans.

• "patient number(s)" is considered figures.

And, no, you can not say that.

They may be equivalent, but neither makes any sense as written.

An average is a single number that summarizes a set of numbers.

It would make sense to say "The graph shows the number of patients using public hospitals by month from 1990 to 2000." This singular formulation stresses that the graph shows each individual number. Those numbers have an average that may differ from each individual number.

It would also make sense to say "The graph shows monthly patient numbers at public hospitals from 1990 to 2000." This plural formulation stresses that the graph represents a large set of numbers.

Which formulation to use depends in part on what you want to stress. Sense and intent determine word choice.

My personal preference would also depend heavily on the detail in the graph. If you can in fact distinguish individual numbers, I would probably use the singular. If, as is usually the case, the graph does not have sufficient detail to discern accurately the individual numbers from which it is derived, I would probably use the plural.

EDIT: A comment by the OP is causing me to amend this answer somewhat. It now seems that the numbers are not monthly numbers at all, but rather monthly averages by year. That is the only way to make sense of the comment. It is also consistent with the lack of detail in the graph.

• How about what I have said to ". . . average patient numbers using public hospitals . . ." in the sencond quote, is it right? Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 15:40
• Aside from the fact that "average numbers" is almost certainly wrong, "using" is perfectly acceptable. Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 16:04
• Actually there're many average numbers on the graph. l'll add it in the post, so you can correctly correct your answer :). Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 16:14
• The line graph has been added :). Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 16:19

The line graph shows average numbers of patients using public hospitals every month, from 1990 to 2000.

The line graph shows average patient numbers at public hospitals every month, from 1990 to 2000.

The first is ambiguous. It could mean:

1a. numbers of patients using public hospitals per month

or

1b. numbers of patients who have to attend hospital on a monthly basis (e.g. regular patients attending for monthly chemotherapy)

Your second sentence is unambiguous.

• Can I say "The line graph shows average patient numbers `using` public hospitals every month, from 1990 to 2000."? Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 5:12