Why does "numbers of people" take "has" not "have"?

Expenditure on direct payments has risen as numbers of people using them has increased and now equates to £1.1 billion or 6% of overall gross expenditure for adults.

Source: An overview of the UK domiciliary care sector February 2013 PDF file

Our freedoms are being forfeited as our numbers grow. Quality of life is reduced as numbers of humans increase.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, EDITORIAL; Pg. 6; Letters to the editor; via COCA


Grammar Glitch Central's take on “Numbers of participants has…?

Edit: more examples

Two Medway Grammar Schools, Chatham Boys and Chatham girls have over a hundred spaces between them, as numbers of children in Medway drops sharply.

Source: Grammar & Non-selective oversubscription and vacancies, in Kent & Medway secondary schools

In both cases, divergence from the 7:3 ratio will be deemed to be drift, in retrospect at least, if the divergence declines as numbers of tosses or generations increases.

Source: Darwinian Reductionism: Or, How to Stop Worrying and Love Molecular Biology, Alexander Rosenberg, 2008 via Google Books

  • 2
    It is an error in the PDF.
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 20:10
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    Isn't there a difference between American and British English in verb agreement for certain collective nouns though? Not that "numbers of people" is a collective noun, but I vaguely recall that whether the singular or plural tense was used depended on if the group was being referred to as a group or as each member individually.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 20:22
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    I removed my downvote after you edited the question. We were typing at the same time. Better to phrase the question, Why does this passage treated "numbers" as a singular not a plural?
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 20:26
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    As would not have any effect upon the number of numbers.
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 20:36
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    Keep in mind the number of children and a number of children are different grammatically. "The number of children has ..." "A number of children have ..." I have to say that the examples in your post seem ungrammatical to me, and I have no explanation for them.
    – user230
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 2:58

1 Answer 1


Maybe there is a difference here between American and British usage.

In America, we would say "The number of people has increased." (Omitting all the irrelevant parts of the sentence.) Then it makes sense: "number" is the subject of the sentence, and "number" is singular. There may be a million people, but there is only one NUMBER of those people. Thus "the number has increased". A singular subject with a singular verb.

I don't know if the usage in the UK is different, or if this was a mistake in the original document.

  • Only very few search results have the singular verb form used. If this is really the case, would the singular form be considered plain wrong or nonstandard?
    – learner
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 21:44

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