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Is the following sentence correct?

A number of researchers are expected to attend the conference

Notice that the sentence is using the plural verb "are" after "researchers" but I don't know if it needs the singular verb "is" instead, since it says "A number" before "researchers".

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    A number are expected. The number expected is astounding.
    – zondo
    Apr 10, 2016 at 2:29
  • There is a bucket load of answers suggesting that it depends on the context in which the word is being used. And by bucket load, I mean that there are at least two. Apr 10, 2016 at 19:29

2 Answers 2

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Idiomatically, the expression a number of works the same way as words and phrases like many, several, quite a few, or plenty of. Therefore, it's:

  • Many researchers are expected to attend.
  • Several researchers are expected to attend.
  • Quite a few researchers are expected to attend.
  • Plenty of researchers are expected to attend.
  • A number of researchers are expected to attend.
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  • Thanks J.R. You answered my question just right, thank you very much. Apr 10, 2016 at 3:26
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    Oddly, this one can be different used definitely than when used indefinitely. A number of researchers have noted that the number of researchers involved in their field is falling.
    – tchrist
    Apr 10, 2016 at 13:35
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    Easy way to remember it - "a number of", let's call the number 'x': "x researchers are" -- oh, that was easy :)
    – OJFord
    Apr 10, 2016 at 15:44
  • @tchrist - In the first case, the verb is relating specifically to the researchers. In the second, it's relating specifically to the number. Using a different word: "The team of researchers are looking into the reasons that a number of researchers are leaving the field." Apr 10, 2016 at 19:15
  • @DarrelHoffman That may be a bad example. "The team of researchers is [...]" is perfectly valid and commonly used, and would be appropriate in your example. You may want to read up on collective nouns. See for example chompchomp.com/terms/collectivenoun.htm and ell.stackexchange.com/questions/658/…
    – hvd
    Apr 10, 2016 at 20:02
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Does double plural bother you? "Researchers" can be taken as a a job classification, The statement said that there are a indeterminate group of "men/women? going to join that are researchers. Singular would have said one of a group of researchers.

What is the meaning of "IS"

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