“A number of students” vs. “the number of students”
“Number of attempts per question is unlimited” or “are limited”?
“A number of questions has been asked” or “have been asked”?

  1. The number of residents has grown.
  2. The number of residents have grown.

Which of the above sentences is grammatical? Since has should stick with singular nouns and have with plural ones, I guess (2) should be correct, but I'm not sure.

  • Isn't 'residents' the subject here? I have checked the question given above and have almost got my answer cleared but am confused regarding the subject. – Anuj Balan Jan 4 '13 at 8:21
  • In the book am referring, (1) is given as correct usage, which negates the answer given to the question(A number of questions "has been" or "have been" asked?) you have pointed to. – Anuj Balan Jan 4 '13 at 8:22
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    How could residents be the subject? It is the object of the preposition. The subject is number. – tchrist Jan 4 '13 at 8:24
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    No, the grammatical subject of the sentence is "number"; "residents" is the object of the preposition "of". You can elide the sentence to read: "The number... has grown" but not to "The... residents have grown" because the first means the same as "the number of residents has grown" but the second doesn't. It's all very simple if it's done this way. – user21497 Jan 4 '13 at 8:26
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    @AnujBalan no, your book does not negate the answer to that other question. Read carefully. "'The number' is singular" is the very first thing it says. – RegDwigнt Jan 4 '13 at 9:36

It’s singular, has, because number is the head of the subject phrase. It would be plural if the subject phrase was a number of residents in, for example, A number of residents have complained. There, a number of is a pre-modifying element.

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