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“A number of students” vs. “the number of students”

I want to know whether the following construct is correct:

Number of Attempts per Question is unlimited.

I want to know if it should be are in place of is in the above sentence.

I have read somewhere that the article before number (whether the or a) governs the form of the verb. However, here there is no article before Number.

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marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt May 10 '12 at 8:55

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1 Answer 1

Follow the number of with a singular verb, and a number of with a plural verb. The grammatical reason is that in the first case number is the head of the subject phrase, but in the second case it’s a premodifying element. In the context in which your example is likely to occur, number will probably be definite, with an ellipsed the, so the singular verb would be appropriate.

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Thanks. That's a neat explanation. –  Essen May 10 '12 at 9:18

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