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  1. #1
    mcilroga is offline Newbie
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    Default "Was" vs. "Were" in this context

    Alright, so my friend and I are having a little friendly bet over the use of which word, "was" or "were", in the following context. The teacher is stumped as well, so I came to you. If I were to say:

    "There [was / were] a large number of people at the event," which would it be? I know "people" is plural so if the sentence was, "There were a number of people at the event," that would be correct. However the "large number" throws us off, because while "number" can be both plural and singular, doesn't the fact that "large" precedes it makes it plural? (in essence, a large number is a number greater than one) Would this not make it "were"?

    Any help is greatly appreciated. :)

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    Default Re: "Was" vs. "Were" in this context


  3. #3
    mcilroga is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: "Was" vs. "Were" in this context

    There seems to be some indecisiveness going on in that thread, though? Someone responded with their answer and halfway down the page someone else said it was incorrect.

    I don't know which one it is. I have a feeling it's "were," but I'm not sure.

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    Default Re: "Was" vs. "Were" in this context

    I think if you read carefully, you will see that an English teacher, Teia, replied, and was congratulated for the excellance of her response by a second English teacher.
    It was the person who posted the thread in the first place who then disagreed with them!
    You take your pick of who is right.

    A number of...
    A large number of...
    A small number of...
    PLURAL verb

    compare

    The number of children born to unwed parents is falling. - singular verb.

  5. #5
    Clark is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: "Was" vs. "Were" in this context

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    I think if you read carefully, you will see that an English teacher, Teia, replied, and was congratulated for the excellance of her response by a second English teacher.
    It was the person who posted the thread in the first place who then disagreed with them!
    You take your pick of who is right.

    A number of...
    A large number of...
    A small number of...
    PLURAL verb

    compare

    The number of children born to unwed parents is falling. - singular verb.

    A similar problem occurs with a number of other nouns like that, for example, 'variety'.

    A great variety of whisky (be) produced in Scotland.
    A great variety of toys (be) produced in Scotland.
    The variety of whisky/toys produced in Scotland (be) great.

  6. #6
    mcilroga is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: "Was" vs. "Were" in this context

    According to Teia,

    "Hi Svartnik

    A [ large ]number of ... + verb in the plural"

    which means that I was indeed correct - "large" is equivalent to "many." I hope so.

  7. #7
    Soup's Avatar
    Soup is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: "Was" vs. "Were" in this context

    Quote Originally Posted by mcilroga View Post
    Alright, so my friend and I are having a little friendly bet over the use of which word, "was" or "were", in the following context. The teacher is stumped as well, so I came to you. If I were to say:

    "There [was / were] a large number of people at the event,"
    There are several choices:

    1. the verb agrees with its noun:

    There was a large number of people at the event.
    2. the verb agrees with the closest noun:
    A large number of people were at the event.

    3. the above also means:
    There were a large number of peopleat the event.
    My seasoned advice: pick the one you mean.

  8. #8
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    konungursvia is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: "Was" vs. "Were" in this context

    Generally, AE treats collective nouns according to strict logic: "The team was happy about the acquisition of Beckham." A team is a singular noun, so the verb will be a singular conjugation. And in general, BE is very tolerant of usages which are "socially" logical, but not necessarily numerically logical: "The team are delighted to announce they have acquired Beckham."

    However, although in general AE is spreading its influence faster than BE nowadays, the overall trend seems to be more and more acceptance of socially logical but numerically illogical constructions: "A lot of people are unhappy Beckham is leaving LA."

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    Default Re: "Was" vs. "Were" in this context

    Quote Originally Posted by mcilroga View Post
    Alright, so my friend and I are having a little friendly bet over the use of which word, "was" or "were", in the following context. The teacher is stumped as well, so I came to you. If I were to say:

    "There [was / were] a large number of people at the event," which would it be? I know "people" is plural so if the sentence was, "There were a number of people at the event," that would be correct. However the "large number" throws us off, because while "number" can be both plural and singular, doesn't the fact that "large" precedes it makes it plural? (in essence, a large number is a number greater than one) Would this not make it "were"?

    Any help is greatly appreciated. :)
    I would have the sentence as "There was a large number of people at the event".

    The reason being is that you are referencing a group, one single entity which consists of people. I think that if you rephrased the sentence a little bit, were would no longer be an option.

    For example:

    "There was/were a large number of people at the event"
    "There was a large group of people at the event"

    If you tried to say:

    "There were a large group of people at the event"

    I do not believe that the sentence makes sense anymore.

    So, taking on the single entity theory, I would use was.

  10. #10
    reshana is offline Newbie
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    Wink Re: "Was" vs. "Were" in this context

    I firmly believe that the verb doesn't agree with the closest noun. This whole issue is a simple matter of Subject and Verb Agreement. Identification of the Subject in this situation is key.

    It is clear that the Subject is "large number of people" since the action is being carried out by them.

    "Number of;
    "Group of";
    "Collection of"; etc.

    Are all singular subjects and carry a singular verb, therefore, the choice would be "was".

    "Large" precedes "number of people" so this seems to be causing some confusion but it must be understood that "large" is only acting as an adjective and not constituting or quantifying the object in such a manner that it would affect how the subject should be interpreted.

    Singular subject + Singular verb .... SIMPLE

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