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Old 09-01-2013, 09:00 AM   #46
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The statistics surprise me. Not so much that Australia leans away from the UK in this instance, the more I look the more I see American influence taking hold, but that there is a such a variation at all. I actually thought this was a clearer case than it appears to be.
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Old 09-01-2013, 10:01 AM   #47
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Originally Posted by gmw View Post
I actually thought this was a clearer case than it appears to be.
Fun, isn't it? Arguments about what's 'right' and what's 'wrong' in English can go on forever, because there is no central authority.
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Old 09-01-2013, 10:04 AM   #48
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Fun, isn't it? Arguments about what's 'right' and what's 'wrong' in English can go on forever, because there is no central authority.
There's lots of things that can seem perfectly natural to English speakers in one country, and just plain "wrong" to those in others. My personal bugbear is the common American English expression "I could care less". To a British English speaker this is just WRONG (we say "I couldn't care less").
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Old 09-01-2013, 10:15 AM   #49
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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
My personal bugbear is the common American English expression "I could care less". To a British English speaker this is just WRONG (we say "I couldn't care less").
And to an Australian English speaker - well, to this Australian English speaker.
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Old 09-01-2013, 10:24 AM   #50
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If I cared less I wouldn't waste so much time over stuff that most readers will probably never notice anyway. (So in this instance I definitely agree with you, Harry, in the sense intended only "I couldn't care less" works for me.)

On the subject of pet peeves and arguing about English, I was recently browsing some discussions on Pain in the English*. It's an interesting forum - with a Pet Peeves category, if you're interested.

* I was trying to resolve "If I was" vs "If I were" - see the discussion here.
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Old 09-01-2013, 11:25 AM   #51
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Originally Posted by Hitch View Post
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).
Look at this in reverse for a second. What if the intent is to indicate a single boy. There is a room with six boys in it and the statement made is: "1 in 6 boys is tall".

This would be correct because your intent is to indicate one boy only. Now the sentence is fairly silly and I can't imagine anyone seriously using "1 in 6" like that. They would possibly write "1 of the 6 boys is tall".

However, and this is where it becomes interesting, what if you actually use a fraction in this case: "1/6th of the boys are tall".

Your intent is to indicate one boy. However, the subject-verb agreement rule states that when you use percentage or fractions as a subject, the verb agrees with the noun that is the object of the prepositional phrase. It's basically an exception to the rule that you never use the object of the prepositional phrase to determine verb agreement. So basically, the above sentence is correct even though the intent is to highlight that only 1 boy is tall.

Now, going back to the original question, I can fully support that the intent of "1 in 6" is "1/6th". To me, it's merely a question of whether we think both of those are identical in every way - including grammatically. I've personally never seen anything written that indicates that "1 in x" should be treated grammatically exactly the same as a fraction or percentage. Therefore, I would apply standard 'remove the prepositional phrase from the equation' logic.

Having written that - this is only to determine what is grammatically correct. What is actually used and accepted, particularly in speech, is usually quite different. While looking into this particular case a little, a linguist chimed in on a similar question with the following:

Quote:
"One in ten kids is" follows the grammatical rules of standard English. "One in ten kids are" is probably equally likely to be what any given English speaker actually says. So in some sense you are both correct, but the style sheet of a publication is correct to require the singular.
Has anyone found a style sheet that actually specifies "1 in x" should adopt the same rules as a fraction or percentage? Other than forum discussions (like this one), any grammar article I've managed to find that specifically mentions the "1 in x" case states that it should use the singular.

Some of you would be able to get your hands on something much more authoritative than my Google searches.
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Old 09-01-2013, 11:53 AM   #52
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@caleb72: I agree that if the sentence meant to refer to one boy then it would have used "1 of the 6 boys is ...". Any attempt to use "1 in 6 boys" to signify one boy would definitely be misleading.

But what if the sentence was "2 in 6 boys"? Is there general agreement that this should be "2 in 6 boys are" ?

If so, then the distinction comes down to making a verb choice based on the number "1", rather than the noun "boys". But notice that the number is not "1", it's actually "1 in 6", but we are going to ignore that reality when choosing the verb.

For some reason it seems clear in my head that we are talking about "some-number-of boys", not "one boy", and as a result I thought the rule was clear. Obviously I'm wrong, it's not clear, but I can't seem to find the logic in thinking "1 in 6" is singular.

Last edited by gmw; 09-01-2013 at 11:56 AM.
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Old 09-01-2013, 12:25 PM   #53
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It's all very interesting. I've found some references now. Woohoo!

Under the topic of "notional agreement" where the grammatical rules would indicate a singular, but the intent would be plural. In these cases, the verb can sometimes agree with the notion/interpretation rather than the subject. I found this:

Quote:
Expressions of the kind one in five, one in ten and so forth can also take either grammatical or notional agreement –
‘Just one in five Britons eats the recommended five portions of fruit
and vegetables a day.’ (Grammatical agreement)
‘Just one in five get ‘five a day’.’ (Notional agreement)
The case for grammatical agreement is clear enough. The subject one takes singular verbs: one gets, one eats. If we delete what comes between
the subject and verb, therefore, we get –
Just one eats the recommended five portions.
Just one gets 'five a day'.
The case for notional agreement rests on the fact that both statements are obviously referring to multiple groups of five. Given a total of 60 million
Britons, then, the number of people eating their five a day is 12 million, and 12 million people eat and get, not eats and gets –
Just one in five eat...
Just one in five get...
http://www.gsbe.co.uk/subject-verb-agreement.html

This is from a website called "Grammar and Style in British English". I'm not saying it's THE authoritative source for grammar rulings, but it's possibly a bit more precise than a forum discussion - at least for British English.

Sorry - I know people think this is all a big argument over nothing, but I actually find grammar can be quite interesting, so once this came up I started exploring. I'm surprised I don't have a few grammar books on my shelves.

I've also seen another site refer to the construct of "1 in 6 ...." as a noun phrase, which sounds reasonable, but when substituting a pronoun you could still substitute "he or she" as opposed to "they". So it being a noun phrase doesn't really solve the problem of agreement.

So basically, "notional agreement" would happily explain the plural usage. As to whether you'd agree (pun intended) that the case for notional agreement is such that it should override the formal agreement rules, it looks like it's been left a matter of taste, at least in the site I referenced.

Incidentally, in spoken usage, I would probably use the plural. English is fun, isn't it?
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Old 09-01-2013, 05:21 PM   #54
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My mother and father (both British, ex-English Teachers, and now in their 80s) insisted that 'is' was correct. My brother and I thought that 'are' sounded better.

I think this must be one of those cases where there is not just one 'right' answer.
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Old 09-01-2013, 10:21 PM   #55
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@caleb72 thanks for the link. It is good to know we are all correct.
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Old 09-02-2013, 12:51 AM   #56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
There's lots of things that can seem perfectly natural to English speakers in one country, and just plain "wrong" to those in others. My personal bugbear is the common American English expression "I could care less". To a British English speaker this is just WRONG (we say "I couldn't care less").
Harry, I think that all Americans with a proper education agree with you.

On plenty of occasions, when someone has said, "I could care less," I have heard someone respond, "You could? I couldn't."
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Old 09-08-2013, 01:39 AM   #57
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Then what's the "1" for? I honestly don't get how "boys is the subject — wouldn't the subject be "1 boy"?

If you restructured the sentence, wouldn't it be "1 boy is abusd out of 6" ?
If you restructure the sentence grammatically you will get a different sentence (obviously).
Instead restructure it mathematically so that all things remain equal. 1 in 6 is 17 percent.
Therefore, "17% of boys are," would be correct.

maybe I can use a screenshot to explain my point:


You are using plural "boys" in both examples. Only "are" can be correct.
Suggesting to restructure it with singular "boy" would alter the meaning.

Which of the following sentence is considered correct in Australia?

or

Which of the following sentences are considered correct in Australia?
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Old 09-08-2013, 03:24 AM   #58
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I think we've managed to cover that both formal and notional agreement approaches seem to have gained acceptance. However, your later example is hard for me to follow. This does not seem to be a case of applying notional agreement.

Which (sentence) of the following sentences is considered correct in Australia? (grammatically correct)
Which (sentences) of the following sentences are considered correct in Australia? (also grammatically correct)

In other words, determining whether to use singular or plural is dependent on the subject whether visible in the sentence or not. In these examples you should not be using the visible word "sentences" to determine agreement because it is not the subject.
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Old 09-08-2013, 08:53 AM   #59
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However, your later example is hard for me to follow.
Which (sentence) of the following sentences is considered correct in Australia? (grammatically correct)
Which (sentences) of the following sentences are considered correct in Australia? (also grammatically correct)
No, it wasn't an example or meant to be suggestive of a rule. The first two parts were indeed my opinion. However, the "later example" were two literal questions to which I had been seeking an answer.
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Old 09-08-2013, 10:19 AM   #60
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Cool. Is my answer helpful then? I know I'm basically saying - it depends, but given that a writer will usually know which implied subject he or she is referring to, it should be fairly clear at the time.

I would be surprised if there is too much variation on this rule, but I probably have said the same thing about "1 in 6" so never say never.
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