“A Number Of” Versus “The Number Of”


In the IELTS Writing Tets, especially, in IELTS Writing Task 1, the most common collocation that is used to describe the quantity of something is “A number of” and “The number of”, such as “The number of students who applied to UK universities” or “A number of cars that were sold in Africa”. However, Is there any difference between two collocations? This post will help you identify and know how to use them correctly.


The phrases “a number of” and “the number of” have different subject-verb agreement rules:


The quantity phrase a number of always takes the plural form of the verb.

A number of consulting firm addresses were left to me by my old boss.


A number of children are going to participate in the test.


The number of takes the singular verb ending.

The number of consulting firm addresses in the directory is extremely short.


The number of children going to school increases significantly from 2003 to 2010.


A number of literally means “quite a few” or “many,” while the number of refers to the actual number or quantity of items, so a number of is plural and the number of is singular.