6

I looked up a few grammar-teaching websites (in Chinese language). The website says many people do not use the phrase "A xxx of" correctly because they do not identify the subject of the phrase correctly.

The website says phrases like "A range of; A high percentage of" is singular, while "a number of; a group of; a couple of; a total of" is plural.

Therefore according to the website, the correct sentences should be as follows.

A wide range of courses is available. ("A wide range" is the subject)

A high percentage of peptides that are made of amino acids is present in the sample. ("A high percentage" is the subject)

A number/ group/ couple of people were killed in the earthquake.("people" is the subject )

A total of 230 employees were laid off. ("employees" is the subject)

I don't get the pattern here. All of this looks (or should I use "look"?) arbitrary to me. In fact I thought this phrase is supposed to be arbitrary and whether the phrase is plural or singular should depend on the the person's own judgment.

How do I identify the correct subject in the "A xxx of" phrase?

  • "Courses" is the subject of number one. And "peptides" is the subject of number two. What are available? Courses. What are present in the sample? Peptides. – lurker Jan 5 '16 at 3:25
  • Look into British English. You'll find that the meanings change based on whether the noun is treated as a singular collective vs multiple, individual parts. American teachers would probably day that the fourth sentence is very much wrong. – shawnt00 Jan 5 '16 at 7:28
  • You chose "this" so you need "all of this looks"; you decided that "all" would be singular. Alternately you could just as well have said "all of these look". It seems to be a special case where the prepositional object does influence the pronoun before it. Yeah, it's probably not consistent. – shawnt00 Jan 5 '16 at 7:38
3

It really depends on context, rather than fitting a specific pattern.

A wide range of courses is available. ("A wide range" is the subject)

Here, range is a singular noun, in context it is unique. (One range will differ from another range.)

A high percentage of peptides that are made of amino acids are present in the sample. ("A high percentage" is the subject)

Here, logically a high percentage of (a group of) peptides would be more than one, so it is plural.

A number/group/couple of people were killed in the earthquake.("people" is the subject)

Here, number/group/couple refers to a quantity (of people) greater than 1, so it is plural.

A total of 230 employees were laid off. ("employees" is the subject)

Here, total refers to 230, so it is plural.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.