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Yet a great many processes depending on such research are sought for with complete secrecy until the stage at which patents can be taken out. (J.D. Bernal "Secrecy in Industry," in L.G. Alexander, New Concept English, Book 4; emphasis mine)

How is the phrase "a great many processes" grammatical? Shouldn't one use the indefinite article "a" only before a singular noun (while here it is the plural "processes")?

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a good (or great) many means a large number of sth

e.g. there were a great many questions about the problem.

Here great many processes is being treated as a single entity and for this entity indefinite article a is used

  • (1) I understand that "a great many" can mean "a large number of something" - but that's beside the point: If you substitute "a large number of something" for "a great many" here, the sentence will read (presumably the "something" is "processes"): "Yet a large number of processes processes [sic] depending on such research are sought for ..." Yes, "processes" is repeated! It appears the phrase "a great many" here is not used as a noun-type component of the sentence but an adjective-type component that describes "processes.“ (2) Is there any justification for treating "processes" as a single... – Fang Jing Mar 20 at 0:24
  • ...entity? What other situations does this rule extend to? – Fang Jing Mar 20 at 0:24
  • "A great many processes" is singular because it refers to the single group which contains many processes. It is many things being considered together and referred to as a single thing. You're right about "a great many" being an adjective phrase that modifies "processes". – Elininja Apr 18 at 19:45

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