Correct verb form? were or was

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Grammerly stated that pronoun and verb did not agree. Do you agree?

See example:

One third of RISE researchers were from underrepresented populations.
asked Jul 06 '13 at 20:19 Harolyn New member

7 answers


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Good question, Harolyn, and it made me hit Google to get some information.  I found a set of rules that seems to make sense. Other sets of rules may vary a little.

 

Fractions modifying singular nouns take singular verbs:

Two thirds of the book is outdated.


Fractions modifying plural nouns take plural verbs:

Two thirds of the books have already arrived.

 

Fractions modifying a collective noun can take either singular or plural:

Two thirds of the population of Lebanon is Muslim.

Two thirds of the population of Lebanon are Muslims.

 

Your sentence falls into the second category, fractions modifying plural nouns take plural verbs, with your 'One third of RISE researchers'. I hope this helps.

link comment answered Jul 07 '13 at 00:15 Lewis Neidhardt Grammarly Fellow
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I agree with Lewis.  May I suggest a simpler way to make sense of this.  You can replace the noun phrase [everything before 'is' and 'have arrived'] with an indefinite adjective - this will easily lead you to the answer.

 

Two thirds of the book is outdated.  In this sentence, you can replace 'two thirds of the book' with 'much' - this is used for an uncountable noun, and it also takes singular.  Now you have the sentence:  'Much of the book is outdated.'  It is far easier to the ear to agree 'much' and 'is' instead of 'much' and 'are'.  It just sounds horrendous to say: 'Much are ...'.

 

Two thirds of the books have already arrived.  In this sentence, you can replace 'two thirds of the books' with 'many' - this is used for a plural, countable noun, and it takes plural.  Now you have the sentence:  'Many books have already arrived.'  It is far easier to the ear, again, to agree 'many' and 'have' instead of 'many' and 'has'.  It likewise sounds horrendous to say:  'Many has ...'.

link comment answered Jul 07 '13 at 09:00 Ahmad Barnard Expert
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From the Yale Graduate School of Writing Center:  "When an -of phrase follows a percentage, distance, fraction, or amount, the verb agrees with the noun closest to the verb."

 

http://www.yale.edu/graduateschool/writing/forms/Subject%20and%20Verb%20Agreement.pdf

link comment answered Jul 13 '13 at 13:15 Kathleen Sannicks-Lerner New member
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Why does Google say that the fraction modifies the prepositional phrase? It's the other way around. The prepositional phrase modifies the noun, which, in this case, is the subject of the sentence. In English, the verb agrees with the subject in number.

link comment answered Jul 13 '13 at 15:49 Jane Owen Eason New member
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Yale's rule makes no sense in the case where the subject is one (amount). One of the brothers is here. One of the brothers are here. Clearly, the first sentence is correct.

link comment edited Jul 13 '13 at 15:55 Jane Owen Eason New member
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Yes, you're right. Thx

link comment answered Jul 20 '13 at 14:21 Earl Blacklock New member
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I suggest the sentence falls into the fourth category.  "RISE researchers" is a collective noun IMHO.

link answered Jul 07 '13 at 02:37 Earl Blacklock New member

Earl, I disagree. You have a plural noun 'researchers', so it can't be collective. A collective noun would be words like team, family, choir, etc. These collective nouns can, indeed, take singular or plural, but with slight semantic differences. In Lewis' example, category three is suggested for collective nouns - in his example, the word 'population'. The moment you use a plural noun [populations], and then you modify this word with a fraction, you will need a plural verb for agreement.

Ahmad BarnardJul 07 '13 at 09:04

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