Is a lot singular or plural? The answer is “It can be either.” A lot can modify a noun, giving an indefinite idea of quantity. But on its own it can also be an indefinite pronoun.
(As a quick aside, is the word people singular or plural? Give up? It’s always plural.)
For example, you can say A lot of flour is required for this recipe or A lot is required for this recipe. Here, a lot takes a singular verb (is).
Why? Because flour is a “noncount noun” and functions as singular.
But you can also say A lot of people like pizza or A lot like pizza. Here, a lot takes a plural verb (like).
Why? Because people is a “count noun”—you could arrive at an exact number (if you felt like spending your time that way).
We’ll get some answers to the question Is a lot singular or plural? in the example sentences below.
Singular a lot
- A lot of time has passed.
[time is singular so it takes a singular verb]
- There is a lot to do today.
[a lot refers to an unstated singular noun—for example, work]
Plural a lot
- A lot of people like to travel.
[people is plural so it takes a plural verb]
- There are a lot in the box.
[a lot refers to an unstated plural noun—for example, pens]
Is A Lot Singular or Plural? That Depends
Don’t let the a in a lot fool you. While the indefinite article a is the go-to marker for singular in English (a cat, a policy, a(n) eggplant), it just doesn’t play that role in a lot, which acts as a unit.
In fact, you could use much in place of a lot for cases where the singular form is needed, and many in place of a lot in cases where the plural is needed:
Much is required for this recipe. [where much replaces a lot of flour]
Many like pizza. [where many replaces a lot of people]
Does anyone actually say Much is required for this recipe when talking about flour? Probably not. It’s just to illustrate the point.
We use many above because people is plural. (The same goes for children, feet, fish, and other plural nouns that don’t end in s.)
Several points bear mentioning when we talk about whether a lot is singular or plural:
- First, a lot is two words. Alot doesn’t exist. (But allot is a word.)
- Second, the word a lot, when it means “a piece of land” or “the location of a movie studio,” is singular. Always. For example, There’s a lot at the end of the street that my aunt wants to buy.
- Third, people are more likely to take note (and/or care) if your usage is correct in writing. Speech is another story.
RedLine’s company philosophy is that usage matters primarily in writing. This is because image, brand, perception of professionalism, etc. are at stake. This isn’t to say that how you speak has no consequence; it just means that everyday conversations between people are basically a linguistic free-for-all.
But writing is different.
In fact, clients pay us to correct their writing and make it as polished as possible both in grammatical and stylistic terms. But speech? Never.
We don’t go around correcting people’s speech on the street. Why? For starters, it’s obnoxious. But it’s also unnecessary. Speech is fluid and spontaneous. By contrast, a piece of writing is planned and can be edited multiple times prior to publication.
So go ahead and say There’s a lot of reasons why I want to go—just don’t write it.
And the next time a stranger stops you on the street to ask you the question Is a lot singular or plural? tell him, “My good man, it can be either.”
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Speaking of Facebook, the company practically embraces they as a singular pronoun. And it looks the Washington Post is okay with it, too.