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I am using Word to write an article. It keeps suggesting that Number of users are should be replaced by Numbers of users are or by Number of users is.

My question is whether either of the following is correct, and why?

  • Number of users are
  • Numbers of users are
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Rule 1: Don't trust Word's grammar checker. But both "Numbers of users are" or "A number of users are" could be correct, depending on context. You haven't given us any context. – Andrew Leach Nov 26 '13 at 19:05
'number of users is' may also be correct. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 26 '13 at 19:49

3 Answers 3

Although the expression ‘a number’ is strictly singular, the phrase ‘a number of’' is used with plural nouns (as what grammarians call a determiner (or determiner)). The verb should therefore be plural:

A number of people are waiting for the bus.

This is not the case with ‘the number’, which is still singular:

The number of people here has increased since this morning.


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Could you also shed some light on "Numbers of users are". – Aman Deep Gautam Nov 29 '13 at 11:19

In terms of the verb agreeing with the number, you need to be clear about what is doing the verb. For example, "A number of people are waiting for the bus", it is the people who are waiting, and there is more than one person, so use are. Here using "a number" could be replaced by "some". However, when it is the number that is doing the verb, eg, increasing, then it should be singular. Eg. The number of users has increased. But what about "the numbers of users...". Here you would use are, but why would numbers be plural? Are we talking about more than one groups of users?

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The short answer is that the verb and subject should match so a singular noun like "number" goes with the singular verb "is".

"On the StackOverflow website, the number of users is going up each year." "On the StackExchange websites, the numbers of users are going up each year."

June Casagrande covers this really well in Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies.

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