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I am confused about this grammatical question:

  • large amount of data and the fact that it will exponentially grow
  • large amount of data and the fact that they will exponentially grow

(the semantic is that the number of data will increase).

Which of the two forms is the correct one?

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I prefer it. Referring to amount which is singular. –  GEdgar Apr 23 '12 at 13:18
    
I second GEdgar. Singular. –  Roy Apr 23 '12 at 13:19
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I'd also prefer you to say, "..it will grow exponentially..." See english.stackexchange.com/questions/6904/… –  JLG Apr 23 '12 at 13:28
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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

In

...large amount of data and the fact that X will exponentially grow

what is X referring to? 'Amount' or 'data'?

X refers to 'amount' and IT will grow. (if you take away the prepositional phrase, nothing else whould change, 'the amount, it will grow'.

See what happens with

...large amount of apples and the fact that X will exponentially grow

If you said 'they will grow', you'd presumably be referring to the individual apples, but instead you are talking about the -amount- that will grow.

This is confusing because both 'amount' is a mass noun and 'data' is naturally taken to be a mass noun but pedantically is considered the plural of a count noun (with the rare 'datum' as the singular).

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This is at variance with OP's "number of data" rather than "amount of data". While your argument is perfect, it is not relevant the question. –  Kris Apr 23 '12 at 14:45
    
@Kris If the Asker did not consider Mitch's Answer relevant, why did they accept it? It's my impression that the Question came from someone who speaks English as a second language. "number of data", I think they meant "quantity of data". –  Eugene Seidel Apr 23 '12 at 15:00
    
You do? I didn't, though. –  Kris Apr 23 '12 at 15:04
    
@Kris: the wording the OP uses is 'amount of data' so that is what I responded to. Yes, he uses 'number' in the explanation, but the response is relevant to the phrasing as asked, 'it' or 'they'. –  Mitch Apr 23 '12 at 15:08
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Rewrite for less awkwardness, e.g.

The volume of data is already large and is set to grow exponentially.

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see also: my comment at answer by Mitch. –  Kris Apr 23 '12 at 14:49
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Your explanatory statement at the end solves it: plural.

Data is used in both singular as well as plural sense, per context.

It is better to make the fact clearer by saying '(many) elements of data' rather than just data.

Amount is inappropriate here. "A large amount of data ": collective, one quantity, singular.

"Large amounts of data": collective, many quantities (each a collection), plural.

"Several elements of data": individual, many items, plural.

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