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I have some question about this:

Numbers dwindled considerably at one protest site amid heavy rain and as Hong Kong people returned to work after a two-day holiday.

The word "numbers" by itself seems ambiguous and indefinite. Would making it definite by replacing it with "the numbers of protesters" be better?

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    The preceding paragraph was discussing the protestors, so numbers can be understood from context. On its own it's a bit unclear, but in the context of the article it works. Nov 2, 2014 at 3:09
  • Define "better"
    – J.R.
    Nov 3, 2014 at 16:44

1 Answer 1

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The preceding paragraph was discussing the protestors, so numbers can be understood from context. On its own it's a bit unclear, but in the context of the article it works.

This construction (without the article) is often used in the news for describing the state of measured quantities. "Prices rose sharply on the stock exchange today." or "Temperatures plummeted as the storm crossed the state." It is less commonly used in conversation, but it's not abnormal by any means. Two people shopping might complain that "prices keep going up," for example.

If you do want to use the definite version of this statement, the quantity being measured is singular. You would say "the number of protestors," "the temperature," or "the price of groceries," rather than the plural.

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  • So, outside of newspaper, "numbers" is nonstandard?
    – meatie
    Nov 4, 2014 at 5:25
  • @meatie It's also used in other news media (TV or radio) but it's uncommon in casual conversation.
    – Era
    Feb 4, 2016 at 17:40

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