The number of vs A number of

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(a) -The number of students in the class is fifteen.

(b) - A number of students are late.

Could you please differentiate between the usage of verb Be in “a” and “b”?
 

5jj

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The number of refers to a figure. That figure is singular, even though it often has a plural reference. A number of, despite its singular appearance, has a similar meaning to some/several, and is followed by a plural noun, which functions as the subject of the verb
 
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