Several vs. A Number Of

These two words are exactly the same. Let us get to know them.

"Several" vs. "A Number Of" in the English Grammar

What Are Their Main Differences?

'A number of' refers to a flexible large number that is close to the exact number. 'Several' means more than a few and it refers to a smaller number. To be clear, first, we have to observe their meanings one by one.


  • 'A number of':

is considered an expression that acts as a quantifier such as 'many'. People sometimes get confused when they use the indefinite article 'a' and the term number as singulars. But here is the thing; Think of a number as the same as 'many'. Remember exactly the same as many it is used with plural nouns and plural verbs. Be careful the meaning is not the same as 'many'. A number of means more than 'a few,' but 'not many.'

A number of birds are hunted by the hunters.

In this example, we don't know the exact number. It refers to a large indeterminate number.

We have visited a number of strangers who were willing to invest on the project.

  • 'Several':

'Several' is more than 'a few' in number but it is not as large as 'many'. For example, if we consider it as a number it is between 6 and 7. But remember, these numbers are just approximate to help you learn, and they are not exact. Another point to know is that 'several' does not refer to a specific number.

I have read several books during the last year.

In this example, it means that the books were not a lot, maybe 3 to 15 books.

Recently, they discovered several new methods for teaching.

'The Number of'

Try not to mix up 'a number of' and 'the number of.' The term 'number' can mean an amount or total. The phrase 'the number of' is followed by a plural noun but the key point is that it is not followed by a plural verb as well. Instead, it is followed by a singular verb because it makes up a 'collection' and 'group.'

The number of single moms is increasing year by year.

Grammatical Functions

  • 'Several':
  1. as a determiner
  2. as a pronoun
  3. as an adjective

'Several' as a determiner is used before plural nouns. As a pronoun, several is used alone with no nouns immediately after it and as an adjective, it is used before nouns and it means 'separate*'.

I was waiting for him to show up several days. → determiner

Several of his corrections related to grammar issues. → pronoun

We shared several desires. → adjective

  • 'A number of':
  1. An expression used as a phrase determiner

As a phrase determiner, 'a number of' is used before plural countable nouns.

A number of events led to her death. → phrase determiner

I made a number of phone calls while having my lunch. → phrase determiner

When Using Pronouns and Noun phrases

  • 'Several':

cannot immediately be followed by a noun phrase or a pronoun. For example, we cannot say 'several the oceans.' So, we have to use the term 'of' after several to be allowed to use a noun phrase or a pronoun afterward.

Several of us are not happy to be here.

Several of the animals in the central zoo are not kept in a acceptable condition.

  1. 'A number of':

Can be immediately followed by a pronoun or a noun phrase as it includes the term 'of' in its own expression.

A number of the politicians went on a protest to get their rights.

I have seen many creatures in the ocean, a number of them were really odd ones.


How Verbs Agree with the Nouns after 'a Number of' and 'Several'

  • 'Several' and 'A number of':

As you know, both 'several' and 'a number of' are followed by plural nouns and as a result, they are used with plural verbs. The term 'several' can also be a pronoun, so, even if there is not any noun immediately after it, we are supposed to use a plural verb with it, because it refers to a small number.

My aunt has several skills such as cooking, dancing, and drawing.

A number of fruits are transported.

How They Can Be Synonyms

'A number of' and 'several' both mean not many so as a result we can consider them synonyms. However, they have some delicate differences that were discussed in the article.

A number of immigrants are traveling to North America.

Several immigrants are travelling to North America.


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