Number words

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Number words are often a problem to non-native speakers, largely because of the uncertainty of using a plural or a singular noun.

Remember that some, when it is used as a determiner indicating an (imprecise) quantity, takes a plural noun, and of course the verbs that go with it are plural too. ("Some people think ...", not "thinks", "Some teachers insist ...", not "insists", ) The same is true of all.

Someone, no one and nobody on the other hand take singulars. So do each and every, and of course everyone and everybody. (To native speakers, it feels as though there is logic here!)

Collective nouns are the names of collections of things, or, more usually, people. A committee contains several people, but is thought of as a unit. The Cabinet is made up of some 20 Ministers, but is a single body. Ideally you should use a singular verb with a collective noun: "the Government thinks that".

Many writers do not follow this rule. They have some justification when they are talking about the behaviour of individuals - e.g. The Committee have expressed many opinions (rather than has); but strict academic English uses the singular verb. Indeed, AWE often sees a 'logical plural' verb being used after a grammatically singular Subject. It was a researcher in a group from a prestigious University, funded by the Home Office, who wrote "[T]he research team [collective, therefore singular] come [plural] mainly from the University of ..." - perfectly logical, and, to AWE's taste, perfectly correct; but odd because some of this team do not come from that University. To be safe, one should write carefully "The members [plural] of the research team come [also plural] ...".

See also: Number words - an exception and Using pronouns with number words