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I am more inclined to say that it is singular, so I rather form sentences like:

The number of chairs is N.

I am not sure enough about it to insist about it, though. Is "is" correct? Is "are" correct, too? If one is yes and the other one's no, then is this generally the case, or does it depend on the other factors?

I repeat myself: Is “number (as in amount) of things” considered singular or plural?

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  • Sorry for having a copy of title in the question body. It was added after having received a complaint and a downvote for question not being clear about in which sense the "number" is being used. Oct 5, 2019 at 7:34

1 Answer 1

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The number of chairs is N.

This sentence is singular because the verb is refers to number not chairs "The number is N." The phrase of chairs is an adjective that modifies number.

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  • I think that's the actual question, whether the word "number" is plural or singular (or does it vary depending on what it refers to). You might want to clarify in your answer that it is single, and perhaps provide references and/or other examples to support this. My feeling is that it varies (e.g. "a number of the students are redheaded") so you might want to modify your answer to accommodate.
    – Andrew
    Oct 5, 2019 at 2:28
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    I disagree with both examples provided by Andrew and Ben, that they do not seem to be apposite to my question. I clearly have stated that I am using "number" as in "amount". In both of those examples, however, the word "number" is used in place of "several". I am going to accept this answer, because it really answers my question: I was wondering whether "number (as in amount)" somehow is considered plural if it is referring to a number that is more than just 1. Oct 5, 2019 at 3:06
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    A small correction: the phrase of chairs functions as an adjective that modifies number, not as an adverb.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Oct 5, 2019 at 3:07
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    @BenKovitz I meant adjective, good catch, thanks.
    – Ron Jensen
    Oct 5, 2019 at 13:47
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    @ThoAppelsin Sorry to hear that your question got downvoted. I think it's a perfectly reasonable and useful question. Sometimes people downvote questions because they don't understand that other languages work very differently from English, or even because the questioner doesn't fully understand the topic! The phrase "number of" is famously tricky regarding grammatical number, so people might think you're asking about the tricky usages. It would be nice to write the question to exclude those, but it's OK. You got a good, correct answer, so it was a success.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Oct 6, 2019 at 4:13

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