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  1. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    Grammar Singular or plural verb?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by dillseed, Apr 27, 2014.

    One in four Americans are not affiliated with any church.

    OR

    One in four Americans is not affiliated with any church.

    Getting past the fact that "one" is singular and normally commands a singular verb, the "one in four" represents a large number of people. Plus "are" sounds better to the ear.

    Is "is" or "are" correct here?

    Thank you.
     
  2. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    The more I look at this, I do see that 1 in 4 is 25% (... 25% of the people are). Despite what prescriptivists say, I'm a notionalist (I guess) and the plural verb works. Also, one in two people are affected, because we're saying that 50% are affected.

    The initial reference isn't to one person; it refers to a large number of people. If there were only four people in America, then the singular would be appropriate. Considering there are millions, the plural are is the way to go.

    So, technically, One in four Americans are not affiliated with any church is correct.

    But! If we used "every," the grammatical complexion of the sentence changes: One out of every 10 people is affected, because we are just describing one singular group of 10 individuals.

    But then we have this: Out of four Americans, not one is affiliated with any church.

    Help!

    Do you agree on both counts?

    Thank you kindly. :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2014
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    One in four Americans is not affiliated with any church.

    The above is correct. Remember that blue is His Royal Majesty, King Subject; green is a prepositional dukedom; and I introduce a new character into my little Game of Grammar, His Holiness, Verb the 1st, Prince of the Church of Action and Being. ;) For a King and a Pope to function within the same realm, they must be in accord.
     
  4. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    Thank you very much, Wreybies. Controversy abounds on this topic across the Internet. One is as singular as it gets. I will always disregard the object of the preposition in such cases, no matter how correct a plural verb sounds.

    Thanks again. :)
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    You are welcome. And just to point out the phenomenon you mention... The innate sense that somehow it should be plural because a logical plurality is made mention is very similar in end effect to the other question you asked concerning the pronouns, where the presence of the verb of being makes it feel like what comes next should be an object, not a subject.

    *shrug*

    That's how languages change over time. Little things like that, which seem so minor, yet come up in so many little places that the minor change results in a broad shift. Slang terms that are so often derided as the corruptors of any language (I speak five, slang is viewed the same way in all) are just smoke and mirrors. They never have any real power to change a language. But the kinds of shifts you are noting in these confusing bits, that's real change. I told you in the other thread that the bolded ones were correct, but they are the ones that no one uses, right? Well, even I have to admit, that if no one uses those forms, then how can they be the "correct forms". There's a pickle for'ya. ;) LOL :D When you go to interpreter and linguist forums, those are the kinds of topics that result in massive flame-wars. :eek:
     
  6. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    You are phenomenal, Wreybies!

    Thanks again!

    With deep respect,

    Mike :)
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you can check that sentence for accuracy by reordering it:

    'Of four Americans, one is not...'
     
  8. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    Thanks.
     

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