General Writing and Grammar Help/Simple grammar


QUESTION: This is a very simple question for an expert.  We have a couple of people disagreeing, so I thought I should go straight to you!

In this sentence, should "numbers" be singular or plural:

Click here to see the numbers of views and shares for this mobile album.

ANSWER: Dear Rita:

I can see why there is disagreement.  This problem has been around forever.  The answer depends on whether you see the total views and shares as ONE unit OR do you look at them individually.

MOST people consider the TOTAL NUMBER to be singular, even though there is more than one part to the TOTAL -- views and shares.  You add the total views and shares to get ONE answer.

Click here to see the NUMBER of views and shares for this mobile album.

Rita, you will never be able to convince those who feel the plural form "numbers" to be correct.

Here's a different example:

The bake sale committee added the voluntary contributions promised for sale at the Spring PTA Celebration.  There were 102 cakes, 80 pies, and 56 boxes of cookies.  Therefore, the NUMBER of items for sale WAS 238.

[I'm not a math major, so I hope 238 is the right answer.]

My advice is to use the SINGULAR form, NUMBER.

Ted Nesbitt

P. S.  Please evaluation my answer.  Don't let those who disagree with me participate in the evaluation!  [That's a joke.]

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Ted, thank you!  Unfortunately, I'm one who believed the correct answer is plural.  Views and shares are different numbers that are not combined.  There is a corresponding chart that will show one number for views and another number for shares.  If I understand you correctly, even with this additional information, you maintain number should be singular.  Please reply.

Dear Rita:

You should have mentioned the additional information, because it changes everything.  I now agree WITH you.  You are dealing with TWO separate entities, the totals for views AND the totals for shares.  Because there are TWO items, you must use the plural form "numbers."

I think you will now have TWO [plural] of my answers to evaluate.  I stand by my original response; it is correct.  I also stand by my second response, because the extra information is "mind changing."

Ted Nesbitt

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Ted Nesbitt


I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.


I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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