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#211636 - 07/07/13 10:46 AM There is / are a total of twenty insects...
Lionel Koh Offline
newbie

Registered: 09/24/12
Posts: 41
There is / are a total of twenty insects on the wall.

Which is the correct bold word?

Thanks.

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#211637 - 07/07/13 11:05 AM Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: Lionel Koh]
wofahulicodoc Online   content
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/06/01
Posts: 5180
Loc: Worcester, MA

There are twenty insects. "Insects" is plural.
but
There is a total... "Total" is singular.

The prepositional phrase "of twenty insects" doesn't determine the verb.

So "There is a total of twenty insects," but it may sound awkward to you. (It doesn't to me - "There are a total" sounds awkward to me - but I tend to be a prescriptivist.) The way to handle awkwardness is to rephrase the sentence. There are many insects, in fact a total of twenty. That's less awkward, but more wordy. Sometimes that's the price of clarity.

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#211723 - 07/12/13 02:19 PM Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: wofahulicodoc]
wsieber Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 1027
Loc: Switzerland
"There is a total of twenty insects," sounds good - but if you consider the whole sentence, including on the wall, the case is different for me. It's the insects that are crawling on the wall, not the abstract entity "total". So I would prefer the plural, as in "there are a lot of insects on the wall".

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#211725 - 07/12/13 03:09 PM Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: wsieber]
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10525
Loc: this too shall pass
ain't English grand?!

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#211728 - 07/12/13 07:19 PM Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: tsuwm]
jenny jenny Offline
veteran

Registered: 06/05/10
Posts: 1554
Loc: Lower Aberdeen, Mississippi
Yes English is great if you don't equivocate.
Case and number must match.
Unless you make up your own rules.

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#211729 - 07/12/13 08:09 PM Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: jenny jenny]
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
Originally Posted By: jenny jenny
Yes English is great if you don't equivocate.
Case and number must match.
Unless you make up your own rules.



Which we do all the time. Make up our own rules, that is. Back in the day when we had case in English, the case of an adjective had to match the case of the noun it was modifying. Also the gender. And the number.

And are you saying that the case must match the number?

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#211731 - 07/13/13 12:22 AM Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: Faldage]
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10525
Loc: this too shall pass
>>Case and number must match.

>And are you saying that the case must match the number?

sure looks like it.

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#211733 - 07/13/13 07:50 AM Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: Lionel Koh]
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
>>>Case and number must match.

>>And are you saying that the case must match the number?

>sure looks like it.

No accountings for tastes.


Edited by Faldage (07/13/13 07:51 AM)

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#211738 - 07/13/13 01:38 PM Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: jenny jenny]
wsieber Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 1027
Loc: Switzerland
What would you say about the following example:
"There are a certain number of insects crawling on the wall" ? Here, the singular would sound very odd to me.

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#211742 - 07/13/13 11:30 PM Re: There is / are a total of twenty insects... [Re: wsieber]
jenny jenny Offline
veteran

Registered: 06/05/10
Posts: 1554
Loc: Lower Aberdeen, Mississippi
Originally Posted By: wsieber
What would you say about the following example:
"There are a certain number of insects crawling on the wall" ? Here, the singular would sound very odd to me.


Ok, let's try this one:
There is a certain number of insects crawling on the wall and that number is one.

My point is that "case", meaning nouns or pronouns, must agree in number with singular or plurals verbs and in number with the objects of the verb. Simple huh?

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