A number of people

Despite some ridiculous practices at the BBC, the grammar of English allows for apparent subject-verb disagreement on occasion: A number of people are unhappy, for example, is grammatically correct. This is because the statement refers to a situation where it is the people who are unhappy, not the number that is unhappy. The correct grammar is derived from the meaning (ie, the semantics), not merely the syntax. Geoffrey Pullum has an explanation here.

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