Should I use a singular or plural verb when the subject is "about one in ten"


I see this both ways in common literary usage. I write a lot of reports about the results of opinion polls and surveys. When we're using pharases like "one in 10," "one-third" or "a quarter" to refer the the proportion of respondents or, by extension, the proportion of the population, is it acceptable (not incorrect) to use the plural verb?

asked May 07 '12 at 14:41 Laurie Harrington New member

1 answer


The choice of the verb form is determined by the sentence's subject.  Here is the rule:

Fractions and percentages take the singular when they modify a mass noun and the plural when they modify a plural noun; either the singular or the plural may be used when they modify a collective noun.

 Fractions and percentages are adjectives. As such, they should not be used as the sentence subject. However, we often misuse fractions and omit the subject because it is implied by the context. There are several schools of thought about this situation:


1) Conservative grammarians tell us -- don't omit the subject after the fraction. The proper verb form will then be clear.

2) Refer back to the implied, but omitted, subject. Use the proper verb form based upon that implied subject.

3) If the fraction begins with one, use the singular. Otherwise, use the plural.


I prefer option 1, but if that cannot be done, I would recommend option 2.

link comment answered May 07 '12 at 15:06 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Your answer

Write at least 20 characters

Have a question about English grammar, style or vocabulary use? Ask now to get help from Grammarly experts for FREE.