The extract below is from an essay written by a private student of mine. The topic is about the measures a college could adopt to make it more environmentally friendly.

Most of the colleges don't go further than the simple "paper" and "plastic" bins, which, in most of the cases, are not even in sufficient number to cover all the structures attended by students.

I am uncertain about the words in bold, should it be:

  1. are ... in sufficient numbers
  2. are... a sufficient number
  3. None of the above. The original is acceptable
    Most...are... in sufficient number

The term number is usually singular when it precedes a countable noun; e.g., a/the number of bins, a/the number of colleges, but what if it follows the subject? Should number become numbers?

I could rephrase that particular section:

the number of which, in most cases, is insufficient to cover…

But I would like to keep the word order and sentence structure as close as possible to the original.

Please help, I've been working quite a bit during the summer and my brain is totally fritto (fried), I just can't figure this one out.

  • You could substitute present for even. Sep 2, 2017 at 17:03
  • @RichardKayser I'm sorry but I don't understand. Am I missing something? The word "present" is not used. Are you saying I could say "...the number of which, at present, is insufficient..."
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 2, 2017 at 17:33
  • 2
    Sorry if I was confusing. I was suggesting that you consider the following in the original text: *which, in most cases, are not present in sufficient number ..." You can keep all the original text with one word change. Sep 2, 2017 at 17:36
  • 1
    in ... numbers, but you need another word. ... are not present/available/supplied in sufficient numbers.
    – Kevin
    Sep 2, 2017 at 18:38
  • 1
    Incidentally, students don't attend structures, Just cover all the classrooms/buildings would be better
    – Kevin
    Sep 2, 2017 at 18:40

1 Answer 1


Stripping away most of the unnecessary words, we have: "... bins are not in sufficient number", which seems awkward in that bins is plural and not in sufficient number feels singular. The following works better:

... bins are not present in sufficient number...

It has the added advantage of meeting your desire to keep the word order and sentence structure as close as possible to the original: all you have to do is substitute present for even.

  • Thank you for suggesting it. Sorry it's not more of a textbook answer. Sep 2, 2017 at 23:01
  • I appreciate your "acceptance". Sep 3, 2017 at 20:25

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