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Letter 218

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Letter 218 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Summary

Shortly before sending this letter, dated October 9, 1959, Eric Rogers sent a letter to "any Professor of English Language". He inquired about the use of the verb in a passive sentence: Is it "A number of office walls has been damaged", or "have been damaged"?

Tolkien, now retired, states Mr. Rogers could do as he liked; both are correct. Since "number" is singular, the verb could be singular. But since "walls" is plural, the verb could be plural.