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Should fractions have a singular verb or plural?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by suroora, Jan 17, 2011.

  1. suroora

    suroora Junior Member

    Switzerland
    English, Hindi
    Do you say "two-thirds of the staff are leaving" or "two-thirds of the staff is leaving"?

    Thanks!
     
  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    If you are talking about staff, or anything else countable, a plural verb is used.
    If you are talking about water, or anything else uncountable, a singular verb is used.
    I'll find the previous threads on this topic in a moment and post links :)

    Here we are. Sorry it's very long.
    Collective nouns - 99% of, the majority of the congregation - singular or plural? percent per cent

    It talks about fractions as well as percentages.
    By the way, the fact that the fraction is "two thirds", apparently plural, doesn't make any difference in this particular context.

    Collective nouns - one third of the students <has, have> computers?
    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 *.
    Fifty percent of those children have psychological problems.
    One-half of the cake has been eaten.
    Source
    * This comment was included because collective nouns are sometimes considered singular, sometimes plural. There are many threads that discuss that topic too :) collective nouns
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2011
  3. suroora

    suroora Junior Member

    Switzerland
    English, Hindi
    I'm still a little confused--it sounds like both usages are acceptable. So I can say, for example, two-thirds of the team are leaving, since it refers to two people or does the verb take the singular from team?
     
  4. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
  5. suroora

    suroora Junior Member

    Switzerland
    English, Hindi
    Thanks! That does help. Although I've chickened out and reworded the sentence! My office has both AE and BE speakers, so I decided not to get into a long discussion with them.
     

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