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When we use 'a large number of' we use a plural verb after it.

A large number of people do this.

When we use 'the large number of' we use a singular verb after it.

The large number of people does this.

What about the case when we use 'a large number' without 'of'?

A large number do it.

OR

A large number does it.

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  • 10
    "The large number of people does this." No, we don't say that. That sounds very odd for multiple reasons
    – Kevin
    Aug 2 at 17:54
  • @ Kevin The total number of students has doubled in the last six years. oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/…
    – xeesid
    Aug 4 at 7:24
  • I'm not sure why you posted that, but that is a completely different sentence
    – Kevin
    Aug 4 at 16:32
  • becauase after 'students'' there is 'has'.
    – xeesid
    Aug 6 at 13:49
  • That's an entirely different construction than the sentence in your question. "has" is being used with the past participle of "double" to make a the present perfect "has doubled". Do/does is the main verb in your question
    – Kevin
    Aug 6 at 14:00
13

It depends on the context.

If we say

A large number do it

we are implying, from context, an "of X" where X is plural. For example

Many people eat peanuts. What's more, a large number [of people] do it.

Or using the question/answer approach from lmus which reads much better:

How many people eat peanuts? A large number do it.

if we say

A large number does it

we are talking about a singular "large number". For example

One thousand million dollars is the target for the telethon. A large number does it! [makes the telethon reach its target]

Or (using Q&A)

What number makes the telethon reach its target? A large number does it!

I hope the examples make sense

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7

What would convince the owners to keep the playground open?

A large number of visitors does this.

Who highfives the janitory at the playground?

A large number of visitors do this.

In the first example "A large number of visitors" is taken as one whole thing and used as the singular thing that convinces the owners to keep the playground open.
The second example talks about the individual visitors that highfive the janitor, and there are a lot of them.

To fully answer your question: it's not the "of visitors" that decides if it's singular or plural. In fact the "of X" part can be dropped if it is clear from context what the large number is "of" without changing anything else about the sentence.

What would convince the owners to keep the playground open?

Kids! A large number does this.

Who highfives the janitory at the playground?

Kids! A large number do this.

(thanks to @ParibusCeteris for providing these examples)

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    +1 because I love your examples, but you are using "of visitors" there... It would have to go like Q: "Who highfives the janitor?" A: "Kids! A large number do this." Q: "What would convince the owners to keep the playground open?" A: "Kids, lots of kids. A large number does this" Aug 2 at 8:41
  • @ParibusCeteris I was already editting my answer to adress this but couldn't find a way to drop the "of X" without adding a lot of extra context around it. Thanks for giving me the solution!
    – Imus
    Aug 2 at 8:45

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