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Which sentence is correct? Why?

  1. In 2000, the number of Vietnamese students studied in Russia and France was around 3 million and 3.5 million respectively.

  2. In 2000, the numbers of Vietnamese students studied in Russia and France were around 3 million and 3.5 million respectively.

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  • Here's an article that you might find useful: dailywritingtips.com/is-number-singular-or-plural
    – VTH
    Aug 6, 2018 at 5:43
  • Pham Van Nhan, you should wait a bit longer to tick any answer correct. In this case, you chose the wrong one. Also, you should edit the question a bit: the Vietnamese students aren't being studied by Russian and French researchers; the Vietnamese students are studying in Russia and France.
    – lly
    Aug 6, 2018 at 7:47
  • I noted the mistake in the question, it should be 'The number of Vietnamese students who studied in Russia and France'. Thanks for your explanation of the tick, I didn't know that :D Really appreciate!! Aug 6, 2018 at 10:03

3 Answers 3

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The short answer is that it should be in the singular. (I will explain this later.)

However, there is a better solution to this—one that is both syntactically correct and which sounds more natural:

In 2000, Vietnamese students who studied in Russia and France numbered around 3 million and 3.5 million, respectively.

This dispenses with the troublesome noun number, using instead the past tense of the verb number.


To explain why the example sentence is in the singular, consider its expanded version:

In 2000, the number of Vietnamese students who studied in Russia was around 3 million and the number of Vietnamese students who studied in France was around 3.5 million.

In both clauses, number is singular and so is the verb. Shortening it into a single clause with respectively doesn't change this essential fact in this particular case. (Even when X is plural, you can't say the numbers of X.)

In 2000, the number of Vietnamese students who studied in Russia and France was around 3 million and 3.5 million, respectively.

But in addition to the rephrasing I suggested at the start of my answer, there is another possibility:

In 2000, the total number of Vietnamese students who studied in Russia and France was around 6.5 million: 3 million and 3.5 million in the respective countries.

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  • 'Number' here is a statistic, and like other statistics can be plural-form. See [English for Students] 'The means / averages of the two sets were 12.5 and 13.7 cm respectively.' // 'The numbers of students involved were just under 12 000 and over 43 000 respectively.' //// 'Number' can also be (and often is) used in a singular-form-covers-all way ('The number of patients rose from 1200 to 2700 in a single week'. //// As you say, awkward mismatches with verb forms can arise and should be avoided by reformulation. Jun 18, 2021 at 14:11
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The First one is correct in my opinion: According to grammar rule : "The number of" + singular verb.

Moreover, the Object of Prepositions has nothing to do with the Verb of the sentence.

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The second seems correct since you are referring to two results of two different counts. Also, I think you mean "studying in," not "studied in."

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  • Thank you for your answer, noted with "studying". So if we consider "the numbers" as 2 different subjects, one for Russia and another for France, there will be 2 individuals to go with "were". Am I correct? Aug 6, 2018 at 2:33
  • Your subject, "numbers," is plural, and so you should use "were."
    – Jeh
    Aug 6, 2018 at 2:47
  • You might want to say "There were about 3 million Vietnamese students in Russia and about 3.5 million in France in 2000." or, alternatively "...students from Vietnam...".
    – tautophile
    Aug 6, 2018 at 4:41
  • I can follow your logic but you simply wouldn't use the word "numbers" if there aren't two separate subjects of the counting. ("The numbers of commuting and boarding students at the university were...") Here, it's one group being numbered up in two different contexts. You'd use a singular number or rephrase, like Mr Bassford suggests.
    – lly
    Aug 6, 2018 at 7:51

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