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Old 08-30-2013, 02:22 AM   #31
gmw
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Originally Posted by MacEachaidh View Post
[...]The subject is actually a noun that is implied, and not visible in the sentence. The phrase in full is in fact "1 boy out of 6 boys", which boils down to "1 boy" being the subject. Similarly, you could express the phrase as "1 boy in 6", which still makes "1 boy" the subject. So yeah, the subject is singular.[...]
When I see "1 in 6 boys" I read that as a proportion of a population (16.67%), not as "1 boy out of 6 boys" - the latter suggests there are only 6 boys. In mathematical terms it reads as: (1/6) x boys. I can find no way to interpret the original sentence such that the subject is "1 boy" - and I am pretty certain that is not the intention.
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Old 08-30-2013, 04:02 AM   #32
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Gmw, I see your point but the subject of a sentence and the meaning behind are two different things. That being said, I would probably use the plural when speaking because there isn't much time to think about it, and the singular when writing because the subject stands out quite easily when words are on a paper.

So if I understand you well, going back to my examples you would go for the second one, since obviously there isn't one only reader involved, right?

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Originally Posted by samhy View Post
In French, both would be okay, even though one way may be more right For example, we can say
Quote:
The majority of the readers agrees with the publisher.
(correct grammar wise since the subject of the sentence is "the majority")


as well as
Quote:
The majority of the readers agree with the publisher.
(okay since the theme of the sentence clearly states there are more than one reader).
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Old 08-30-2013, 04:32 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by tubemonkey View Post
A staggering 17% of Australian boys are sexually abused before they're 18.
Yep, I'd sidestep the whole grammar issue. No matter which you choose, it will seem wrong to a fair portion of the readers. I'd go with "Almost 20% of ...".
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Old 08-30-2013, 04:40 AM   #34
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Harry, can you explain how in 1967 I bought in England an EP (45 rpm) called The Animals is Here?
A bunch of semi-illiterate "pop stars", and you think it needs explaining?
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Old 08-30-2013, 01:03 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by samhy View Post
Gmw, I see your point but the subject of a sentence and the meaning behind are two different things. That being said, I would probably use the plural when speaking because there isn't much time to think about it, and the singular when writing because the subject stands out quite easily when words are on a paper.

So if I understand you well, going back to my examples you would go for the second one, since obviously there isn't one only reader involved, right?
I carefully avoided saying which one I thought was right. My post was merely being picky about the interpretation of "1 in 6" (sorry, MacEachaidh, I was in a picky mood).

Your particular example combines a collective noun ("majority") with a plural noun ("readers") to form the subject of the sentence. This brings the usual rules into conflict:

"The majority agrees " - okay
"The readers agree " - okay
"The majority of readers " - huh?

My interpretation is that "the majority" is a proportion modifier on "readers", leaving "readers" as the relevant noun for selecting the verb - hence I would go with "agree". I even managed to find a source that agrees with me

According to this source (see rule 9):
Quote:
With words that indicate portions—percent, fraction, part, majority, some, all, none, remainder, and so forth —look at the noun in your of phrase (object of the preposition) to determine whether to use a singular or plural verb. If the object of the preposition is singular, use a singular verb. If the object of the preposition is plural, use a plural verb.
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Old 08-30-2013, 04:01 PM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post

My interpretation is that "the majority" is a proportion modifier on "readers", leaving "readers" as the relevant noun for selecting the verb - hence I would go with "agree". I even managed to find a source that agrees with me

According to this source (see rule 9):
Yeah, this is my take; the 1 in 6 is a modifier, and "boys" is the noun. But I've read other opinions on this thread which I don't think are necessarily invalid. It's a sentence that could have been better written, to convey the actual intent. After all--the writer isn't speaking about ONE boy in Australia, is s/he? No, s/he's speaking about however many boys is the mathematical equivalent of "1/6th of all boys in AUS," essentially.

Just my $.02, and worth less than you paid for it. ;-)

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Old 08-31-2013, 03:10 PM   #37
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Would you object to "1 boy in every 6 is abused", Hitch? That equally means "1/6th of all boys", but to me that construction demands a singular verb even more strongly.
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Old 08-31-2013, 04:49 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
Would you object to "1 boy in every 6 is abused", Hitch? That equally means "1/6th of all boys", but to me that construction demands a singular verb even more strongly.
Actually, Harry, at that point--and at the original--I would have recrafted the sentence, just for the very reason this thread has gone on for ages; although the intent of the writer is clear (essentially, "here's a shocking statistic"), the fact that 20-some-odd of us can sit here and argue about what's the subject and/or the noun and whether or not "1 in 6" means one boy or all boys or 1/6th of all boys, means that the sentence is poorly written.

I would agree with you that to my ear, "1 boy in every 6 is abused" sounds right. I fear, though, that the same reality applies--we're not talking, in this sentence, about ONE boy. We're still talking about 1/6th of all Australian boy(S). And that one boy, singular, is the subject of the sentence, and the "1" is now the modifier, making it clear that it's singular. Thus, we get to "is," rather than "are." The sentence and the meaning would have been better served had the original author written: "16.66% of all Australian boys are molested. That's 1 boy out of every 6," (or "[t]hat's one boy out of every 6 boys," or however s/he wanted to state it).

This entire discussion is highly reminiscent of the heated debate (amongst pedants) about "better than me/I." LOL! (Pronouns as subjects/objects). I had a client (new) send me a wee note, a few years back, because I had ended an email to him saying, "You would know better than I." He wrote back, and condescendingly told me that I must be young, and belong to that generation that wasn't taught any better. All of you here can just imagine how charmingly that sat with me.

So I wrote back and said "REALLY? So, I've had it wrong all this time? Had I written the sentence out in full, I should have said 'You would know better than me would?'"

Curiously enough, I don't believe I've heard back from him on grammar since.

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Old 08-31-2013, 06:31 PM   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hitch View Post
This entire discussion is highly reminiscent of the heated debate (amongst pedants) about "better than me/I." LOL!
This reminds me of a Grammar Girl podcast that I listened to a while ago. Apparently, the problem is that than can be both a conjunction and preposition. I.e., both sides can technically claim that they're right. (For more information see the transcript that I linked to.)

As for the OP's question, if you search for "one in six boys are" with Google, you get about three times as many hits than for "one in six boys is," which doesn't really prove anything, after all, you get about 25 million hits for "recieve," which still hasn't been accepted as an alternative spelling of "receive."
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Old 08-31-2013, 08:11 PM   #40
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Doitsu, I wonder if the hits that Google finds for "recieve" are all posts like yours or mine showing the wrong spelling. Dang, now there's two more, if we keep doing it we might change the language.
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Old 08-31-2013, 08:26 PM   #41
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Originally Posted by Doitsu View Post
This reminds me of a Grammar Girl podcast that I listened to a while ago. Apparently, the problem is that than can be both a conjunction and preposition. I.e., both sides can technically claim that they're right. (For more information see the transcript that I linked to.)

As for the OP's question, if you search for "one in six boys are" with Google, you get about three times as many hits than for "one in six boys is," which doesn't really prove anything, after all, you get about 25 million hits for "recieve," which still hasn't been accepted as an alternative spelling of "receive."
Indeed, that's the debate. I, being {mumble} in age, stick with "than I," when the continuation of the sentence would be correct, as in "wiser than I (am)," etc. {shrug}. Yes, it's certainly more formal, but Ye Olden Nuns would have me for breakfast if I succumbed to the forces of Grammatical Darkness.

Of course, I think I've forgotten so many things that it's a fairly useless fight, sad to say. LOL! Grammar school (in all senses of the word) was indeed a Long Time Ago, in a Youth Far Away. ;-)

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Old 08-31-2013, 09:18 PM   #42
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The problem here is many fold. Not only are there different versions of English in this thread (British, Australian, American, etc), but also different generations of English.

Add to that the much disliked fact that rules follow the language, and not the other way around and you will end up with grey areas like this. I know that "are" is what I would use in formal writing here if I used that sentence (but as many pointed out its poorly worded to start with; I would rewrite the original sentence to clear up the issue).
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Old 09-01-2013, 03:29 AM   #43
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(but as many pointed out its poorly worded to start with; I would rewrite the original sentence to clear up the issue).
I disagree. I think it's worded just fine. One in six carries a personal connection that percentages and fractions do not. We all know six boys....same as the way "look at the person to your left, look to your right...one of you won't be here next week" has more impact than "33% of this class will fail out." And among the offered rewrite suggestions, one is way more awkward and another outright changed the meaning. If forced to rewrite, I might go with "One Australian boy out of six is..." but think it's fine as it is.
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Old 09-01-2013, 03:46 AM   #44
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As for the OP's question, if you search for "one in six boys are" with Google, you get about three times as many hits than for "one in six boys is," which doesn't really prove anything, after all, you get about 25 million hits for "recieve," which still hasn't been accepted as an alternative spelling of "receive."
Have you come across Dialecticon? This examines frequency based on web site origin.

Of course, web site origin is hard to determine, so results are only a guideline, but it's usually pretty good at indicating what is the norm in US, UK, Canada an Australia.

For "one in six boys is" vs "one in six boys are", we get

US: 28%:72%
Canada: 55%:45%
Australia: 35%:65%
UK: 75%:25%

So in the US use 'are', in the UK use 'is'. In Canada toss a coin. In Australia, 'are' is probably the one to go for.

Usually, Australia matches the UK. But not in this case.

[Edit: Got the is/are the wrong way around when I summarised (now fixed). Personal bias - despite being in the UK, I feel that 'are' is right . ]

Last edited by pdurrant; 09-01-2013 at 04:56 AM.
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Old 09-01-2013, 06:11 AM   #45
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Have you come across Dialecticon? This examines frequency based on web site origin.

Of course, web site origin is hard to determine, so results are only a guideline, but it's usually pretty good at indicating what is the norm in US, UK, Canada an Australia.

For "one in six boys is" vs "one in six boys are", we get

US: 28%:72%
Canada: 55%:45%
Australia: 35%:65%
UK: 75%:25%

So in the US use 'are', in the UK use 'is'. In Canada toss a coin. In Australia, 'are' is probably the one to go for.

Usually, Australia matches the UK. But not in this case.

[Edit: Got the is/are the wrong way around when I summarised (now fixed). Personal bias - despite being in the UK, I feel that 'are' is right . ]

That is pretty much what I expected based on this thread.
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