I'm currently editing some chemistry test questions, and I have several sentences like the following:
- What is the total number of moles of HCl produced when 3 moles of hydrogen is completely consumed?
- How many moles of hydrogen are consumed in this reaction?
I originally flagged "are" in the latter sentence to be changed to "is" in order to be consistent, but intuition is leading me to doubt this. Does the "How many..." construction of the sentence make "moles" dictate agreement in this case?
I suspect that "How many..." contextually sets the expectation that the subject is a count noun ("moles" in this case), whereas in cases like the first sentence, there is no clear contextual indication whether the subject is a count or mass noun. Does anyone know if there is a clear rule for cases like this? If not, would you stick with "are" in the second sentence or change it to "is"?