Get expert advice to help you get published!

You are here

Scientific writing: "A number of" and "The number of"

Yateendra Joshi | Jan 16, 2014 | 91,978 views
Avoid grammatical mistakes in scientific writing

Scientific writing often poses a challenge to non-native English authors. While writing papers, authors often face grammatical problems. Let's look closely at one of the most common one in this post.

It is natural to associate numbers with the plural form. When talking about more than one of something – days, samples, experiments, etc. – we tend to use the plural form of the verb, as in "the days were short," "the samples were dried," or "the experiments were repeated."

The expression "a number of" also belongs to the same category—it is always followed by the plural form, as in "a number of days passed" or "a number of people were present." Do not be misled by the indefinite article a in that expression: the expression is always used to indicate more than one of something and therefore takes a plural noun and a plural verb.

On the other hand, the expression "the number of" is different and always takes a plural noun followed by a singular verb because the expression is used to refer to the exact number that makes up a collection or a group. The expression emphasizes a precise quantity and is used when the exact number is more important than just the fact that there were many, as in "The number of plants in each plot was 25" or "The number of participants was greater in summer than in winter."

Republish

Like this article? Republish it!
Knowledge should be open to all. We encourage our viewers to republish articles, online or in print. Our Creative Commons license allows you to do so for free. We only ask you to follow a few simple guidelines:
  • Attribution: Remember to attribute our authors. They spend a lot of time and effort in creating this content for you.
  • Editage Insights: Include an attribution to Editage Insights as the original source.
  • Consider a teaser: Yes, that’s what we call it…a teaser. You could include a few lines of this post and say “Read the whole article on Editage Insights”. Don’t forget to add the link to the article.
  • Re-using images: Re-publishing some of the images from our articles may need prior permission from or credit to the original image source.
  • Quick and easy embed code: The simplest way to share this article on your webpage would be to embed the code below.

 

Please copy the above code and embed it onto your website to republish.
Join a community of 179000+ researchers
Editage Insights offers a wealth of free resources on academic research and publishing. Sign up and get complete access to a vibrant global community of researchers. Gain expertise & share your own with authors and others involved in scholarly publishing.
By clicking 'Join Now', you agree to our Terms & Privacy Policy.
Having trouble registering/logging in? Contact us
Q & A

Have your own question?

Tip of the day

Related Categories