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  1. #1
    alkaspeltzar is offline Member
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    Default What is the subject "alot of people"

    HI there , I am struggling to find what the subject of the sentence below:

    "A lot of people are coming"

    Obviously, 'people' are coming, and ' a lot' leads the phrase. But it seems more like 'a lot of" is describing people therefore 'people' is the subject.

    I found this on Oxford Dictionary:
    (lot itself does not normally function as a head noun, meaning that it does not itself determine whether the following verb is singular or plural. Thus, although lot is singular in a lot of people; , the verb that follows is not singular. In this case , the word people acts as the head noun and, being plural, ensures that the following verb is also plural: a lot of people were assembled;)

    So would this mean people is the subject?

    I would assume the same would be true for a sentence like;
    "a small number of people are coming"......people again is the subject?


    Thanks for the help

  2. #2
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the subject "alot of people"

    Quote Originally Posted by alkaspeltzar View Post
    So would this mean 'people' is the subject?
    Yes, as it is in 'Many people are coming'.

  3. #3
    TheParser is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: What is the subject "alot of people"

    [QUOTE=alkaspeltzar;805367]


    ONLY A NON-TEACHER'S OPINION


    (1) As the teacher has just told us, you are 100% correct.

    (2) Like you, I am also a learner, and we learners love rules. So here is the rule from

    Michael Swan's very dependable Practical English Usage. In the 1995 edition, entry

    # 326 (on page 319) says:

    So when a lot of is used before a plural subject, the verb is plural; when

    lots of is used before a singular subject, the verb is singular.

    (a) Then Mr. Swan helpfully gives these examples:

    A lot of time is needed to learn a language. / A lot of my friends want to emigrate.

    ***

    (3) I could not find anything about "a small number," but he does mention that "a large

    of" is used in the same way that we use "a lot of": A large number of problems have to be solved.

    (a) So I think that you are again 100% correct: A small number of people are coming.

    (i) BUT: English speakers have decided that it is correct to say:

    THE number of problems is small. ("Number" is the subject!)

  4. #4
    alkaspeltzar is offline Member
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    Default Re: What is the subject "alot of people"

    Thanks guys, that makes perfect sense. I appreicate the information.

    I have always wondered when somene says "alot of" anything, if the 'anyting' is the subject as if that would be the same situation as 'a number of'.........now I know!

    And as for why "the number of people", 'the number' takes the subject that is easier to understand. From english, it is becuase it is the emphasis and main noun being talked about.

    Thanks again for the quick response.

  5. #5
    SoothingDave is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: What is the subject "alot of people"

    "A lot of people are coming"
    Huh? Isn't "of people" a prepositional phrase? How can the object of the preposition be the subject of the sentence?

    I was taught that you find the core subject and predicate by removing any prepositional phrases. The core of the sentence is "A lot are coming" isn't it?

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    TheParser is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: What is the subject "alot of people"

    [QUOTE=SoothingDave;805424]How can the object of the preposition be the subject of the sentence?


    ONLY A NON-TEACHER'S OPINION


    (1) I think the answer is: Because that's what "the powers that be" have decided.

    In other words, this is one of those exceptions that both learners and native speakers

    have to accept.

    (2) As you know, A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (I have the 1985 edition with 1,779 pages) is widely considered as the authority on grammar.

    (a) This is what Professor Quirk and his colleagues have decided (page 264):

    Although the quantity nouns lot, deal, etc. look like the head of a noun phrase,

    there are grounds for arguing that the whole expression (a lot of, a good deal of,

    etc.) functions as a determiner. [I think a "determiner" is what traditional grammar

    simply labeled as an adjective.] Notably, the verb regularly has number concord

    with the SECOND noun, rather than the FIRST [noun]. [Capital letters are my

    emphasis.] The professors' example:

    Lots of food was on the table. = There was lots of food on the table.

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    alkaspeltzar is offline Member
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    Default Re: What is the subject "alot of people"

    Yeah, I have alwasy learned that too, that the subject was the noun, minus the prepositional phrase.

    But as shown, it does seem like 'a lot of' is describing people and makes more sense that way. That, and I doubt the english grammar books have it wrong. IF it said:

    A lot are coming-----that would sound wrong and I would ask, alot of what?
    People are coming------that makes more sense in general.

    And english is changing. Sometimes nouns are compound, like 'cup of tea" and that is not a phrase or anything but one name for an item. Compound words break the rules too.

    I guess this is something I never thought about, but just used.

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    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the subject "alot of people"

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    (1) I think the answer is: Because that's what "the powers that be" have decided.
    .
    No, the 'powers that be' did not decide this. They merely recorded what most people actually say and write.

    We use 'a lot of' in the way that we do, because (it seems) we consider it as a determiner, like many. Quirk, Swan and all the others note this; they do not decree it.

  9. #9
    alkaspeltzar is offline Member
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    Default Re: What is the subject "alot of people"

    So tell me this, what are the subjects then in these sentences:

    "50% of the people are coming"......is it people?

    "50% of the cake is gone"......is it cake?

    Do they follow the rule "So when a lot of is used before a plural subject, the verb is plural; when lots of is used before a singular subject, the verb is singular"?

    OR is that only true for those specific expressions listed before and not these examples? seems to me it would be the same.


    Maybe it does not matter. Maybe eventhough 50% is singular in both, since the overall meaning of the phrase "50% of the people" has a plural understanding, it must take a plural noun. Maybe that is the best answer. What does everyone think?

  10. #10
    TheParser is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: What is the subject "alot of people"

    [QUOTE=alkaspeltzar;805761]

    "50% of the people are coming"......is it people?

    "50% of the cake is gone"......is it cake?


    ONLY A NON-TEACHER'S OPINION


    (1) Congratulations! You are 100% correct.

    (2) Fifty percent of the toxic waste HAS escaped. ("waste" is singular)

    Sixty-six percent of the students ARE satisfied with the class. ("students" is plural)

    CREDIT: The Grammar Book by Mesdames Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman.

    P.S. You have a choice if the noun is collective:

    The two scholars give this example:

    One tenth of the population of [a certain country, which I shall not name, for we must

    be very sensitive to members' feelings] is/are [of a certain religion].

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