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I'm studying numbers and I found this example:
На стадионе собралось пятьдесят тысяч человек.

The subject is genitive plural, if I'm not wrong.

Why is the verb in past singular? Is it like English people?

Thanks in advance.

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You are correct - человек is actually the genitive plural form of человек. Alternatively людей is used as the genitive plural of the same word.

The verb is in the neuter past tense because plurality can be seen as a neuter collective whole in conjuncion with numbers and numerical expressions like много many, большинство most, and your number above -OR- as an animate plural group in Russian.

For example:

Большинство людей не знает (singluar verb referring to большинство)

(A plurality of people does not know)

-or-

Большинство людей не знают (plural verb referring to людей)

(Many people do not know)

As a non-native, I respectfully defer to the natives to elaborate on my answer.

Update from natives:

The answer is great. The singular form is used because it relates to a "multitude" as a whole, or, to give you more precise feeling, to a mathematical meaning of "set". So, the phrase

На стадионе собралось пятьдесят тысяч человек

could be literally translated as

On a stadium there has gathered a set of fifty thousand people

"fifty thousand people" is used here as a noun when "a set of" is omitted.

To make your feeling even more precise look at the English word "dozen". It means 12, but is a noun. It is the very same case.

On a stadium there has gathered a dozen OF people

Genitive relates to (literally): "[Fifty OF thousands] OF people" because "a thousand" and "a person" are nouns.

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  • I see, but I also found this other sentence: В нашей компании работают пятьсот человек. here the verb is plural, so what's the difference? – mario Jan 11 '16 at 13:26
  • Here they're referring to an animate group of people, as in my second example. They could have also used работает referring to the number. – CocoPop Jan 12 '16 at 13:49
  • but the number is related to the number of the people, so it s the same thing If i relate to the number or the people, right? – mario Jan 15 '16 at 14:17
  • No, because numbers are treated grammatically as (singular) neuter collective nouns, and people are treated as plural animated nouns. So in essence, it's пятьсот работает -or- люди работают - and when combined you can refer grammatically to one or the other. – CocoPop Jan 16 '16 at 14:38
  • @mariodez- For your second example, one could also say "В нашей компании работает пятьсот человек." Both constructs are valid. – Vitaly Jan 19 '16 at 13:40
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На стадионе собралось пятьдесят тысяч человек.

Even though formally, this sentence has a subject, using the singular neuter form makes it sound like an impersonal sentence, emphasizing that the situation (the number of people) is a result of some factors that are independent from those people's wills and active actions.

It's explained really well here (see the 'Согласование сказуемого с числительными' part).

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Actually, "собралось" and "собрались" both fits. You can also say "пришло два человека" or "пришли два человека". Both are correct. The only little difference is when you use "пришли", "собрались", you may be pointing to some particular persons, instead of people in general. So yes, I think, is has something to do with your comparison to English "people". You can start a story like "Пришли два человека [куда-то] и говорят: ..." In such case "пришли" is preferred.

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