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Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: PeterB
Date: January 13, 2010 11:39PM
... I want to make sure I get this right:

"A specific number of points is associated with each weekly assignment..."

or

"A specific number of points are associated with each weekly assignment..."

... my understanding is that it should be "is", not "are", because the subject noun is "number", not "points", which is singular, e.g., "number/is", not "number/are". However, one could argue that "number" as a subject noun is inherently plural, not singular... but I'm not sure my reasoning here is correct.

TiA




Freya says, 'Hello from NOLA, baby!' (Laissez bon temps rouler!)
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: smanoli
Date: January 13, 2010 11:48PM
I'm not a grammar expert, but I'd say that points is the subject w/ "A specific number of" being some sort of adjective phrase modifying points. That would argue that the correct verb is are, since points is plural.

The second sentence also sounds right, so if I were writing it that's what I'd do, but like I said I'm not a grammar expert by any means.
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: PeterB
Date: January 13, 2010 11:50PM
Hmmmm... this seems to suggest that "number/are" is correct: [www.askoxford.com]




Freya says, 'Hello from NOLA, baby!' (Laissez bon temps rouler!)
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: N-OS X-tasy!
Date: January 14, 2010 12:06AM
"are."



It is what it is.
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: artie67
Date: January 14, 2010 12:22AM
The subject of the sentence is number therefore the verb is "is". This is from my wife the editor and proofreader.
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: Doc
Date: January 14, 2010 12:26AM
"Points are associated with each assignment."

"A specific number" is a nonessential subordinate clause. It doesn't stand alone. It has to modify some other part of the sentence. It acts as a relative pronoun, answering the question, "which points?"
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: Buck
Date: January 14, 2010 12:33AM
You expected us to agree one?
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: martin
Date: January 14, 2010 01:31AM
is
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: Janit
Date: January 14, 2010 01:54AM
Each weekly assignment is worth a specific number of points.

BTW, beware if the askoxford link above is oriented toward British English rather than American English, the conventions may be different.
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: Lux Interior
Date: January 14, 2010 02:29AM
"A specific number of points will be..."

If in doubt, change the tense!
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: WHiiP
Date: January 14, 2010 05:21AM
FIRST, your subject line is not grammatically correct . . . big grin smiley you actually need "quick" help with a grammar question. Beyond that, you have the other answers to plow through and pick one. redface smiley



Bill
Flagler Beach, FL 32136

Carpe Vino!

Fermentation may have been a greater discovery than fire.
— David Rains Wallace
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: iaJim
Date: January 14, 2010 05:23AM
I'm a bit rusty on this, but here's what I believe.

"Number" is the subject of the sentence, "of points" is a prepositional phrase modifying "number". The rule is that a verb agrees with the subject, not the object of the preposition. In this case, number and points are our subject and object of a prep respectively.

While the object of the prep doesn't agree with the verb, it does help us determine the meaning of the collective noun, "Number". In this case, I believe that "points" helps us determine that "Number" is plural, and I would choose "are" as my verb.

That said, I'd rewrite the sentence too to make sure I had a construction that I was more confident about.
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: what4
Date: January 14, 2010 06:47AM
Yes, do replace the sentence. It's your problem.

The usual distinction is:

A number are... (plural)
The number is... (singular)

Thus;

A number of students are late.
The number of late assignments has increased.

Rewrite: Completing each assignment will earn you a specific number of.points,


My tuppence.
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: Dakota
Date: January 14, 2010 07:57AM
Turn it around and see which one sounds right,

There are a number of points to consider
There is a number of points to consider.

Which one sounds right?



After you discover you're riding a dead horse, your best strategy is to dismount.
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: PeterB
Date: January 14, 2010 08:27AM
Thanks everyone for help.

Dakota, that seems to make the most sense to me... and though the Oxford link is biased toward UK English rather than American, I would tend to think that they know what they're talking about.

P.S. ... and yes, you can tell, I didn't write this sentence-- and unfortunately, I can't completely rewrite it... if I could, I would, but I can't, so I won't. grinning smiley




Freya says, 'Hello from NOLA, baby!' (Laissez bon temps rouler!)
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: rgG
Date: January 14, 2010 08:36AM
Quote
artie67
The subject of the sentence is number therefore the verb is "is". This is from my wife the editor and proofreader.

agree smiley





Roswell, GA (Atlanta suburb)
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: wickedsteve
Date: January 14, 2010 08:36AM
I am sure this is not an option or even helps but I would avoid it all together.
"Each weekly assignment is worth a specific amount of points."



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/14/2010 08:38AM by wickedsteve.
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: Mike Johnson
Date: January 14, 2010 10:12AM
Is. Number is the subject, and even though "points" is plural, "specific" makes it singular. "A specific point value is," not "A specific point value are."

That said, who cares? No matter which you use, some people will think it's wrong. Rephrase it.
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: Dennis S
Date: January 14, 2010 02:46PM
"A specific number of points is associated with each weekly assignment..."

Now, leave out "of points" and try saying it with "are".

"A specific number of points are associated with each weekly assignment..."

Doesn't work.
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Re: Need help with a quick grammar question...
Posted by: kap
Date: January 14, 2010 05:29PM
My big gut feeling tells me it ... umm, never mind.



SoCal for now.
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