80 percent or 80 percents?

  • quietdandelion

    Banned
    Formosa/Chinese
    Because N percent (per cent) means "N for/in/out of one hundred".
    80 percent --> 80 out of one hundred.
    Thanks, LV4.
    I'm still wondering since the number of something is over two, we have to use the plural form. Now it's 80 percent/out of one hundred whatever you say it; logically, it should be plural.
     

    dragonfly37

    Senior Member
    U.S.A., English
    As a general rule (this is not to say there aren't exceptions), "percent" is never used in the plural. If you want to say that, for example, two polls came up with different results, you use "percentages." "The percentages of female teachers varied in our polls." Or even "The percent of female teacher..."
     

    I_like_my_TV

    Senior Member
    Tongan
    I don't think percent is an adverb here. An adverb gives more meaning to the verb, and if you drop the adverb, the sentence is still intact, only becomes a little less precise. However, here you can't say: "Female teachers represent 80 of the school staff."
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    I stand corrected. Per cent is indeed a noun.in the sample sentence. (but it remains true that it takes no 's').
    Consider it as an exception, probably due to its origin as a prepositional phrase (per = for/in/by, cent. = centum = one hundred. - Latin and French -).
     

    dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Quite strange, but it seems that "percent" can be a noun, adjective and adverb (depends on its context):

    Female teachers represent 80 percent of the school staff. - here it's a noun in its plural form without "s"

    He paid the money into a 8 percent account. - here "percent" is an adjective

    Taxes rose 4 percent last month. - now it's an adverb

    Pretty confusing, but somehow logical. :D
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Quite strange, but it seems that "percent" can be a noun, adjective and adverb (depends on its context):

    Female teachers represent 80 percent of the school staff. - here it's a noun in its plural form without "s"

    He paid the money into a 8 percent account. - here "percent" is an adjective

    Taxes rose 4 percent last month. - now it's an adverb

    Pretty confusing, but somehow logical. :D
    I think that it is a noun in all those usages - you could replace "percent" with "places" and still make sense. Well, I suppose you could view it the other way round and say that a noun can act as an adjective or an adverb but that is true of many nouns.

    I also don't think that "percent" is plural in Female teachers represent 80 percent of the school staff. There is one 80 percent that is made up of females.
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi All,

    I think that the reason that a singe percent, like 80 percent, is singular is that it represents a single ratio. The ratio is expressed with 100 as the denominator and the number given (80 in the example of 80 percent) is the numerator. Saying 80 percent is equivalent to saying in the ratio of 80 to 100.
     

    dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Since one percent = one part of a hundred, eighty percent = eighty parts of a hundred (but "percent" doesn't take "-s" in its plural form). Guess you're going to disagree... :D
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Since one percent = one part of a hundred, eighty percent = eighty parts of a hundred (but "percent" doesn't take "-s" in its plural form). Guess you're going to disagree... :D

    You are right, I disagree. Each example you gave is a single ratio.

    EDIT: The ratio of 1 to 100, the ratio of 80 to 100. It is not ratios of 1 to 100.
    EDIT 2: X percent is the ratio of X to 100.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    And I disagree too:D

    "Percent" = "per hundred". It would make no sense to say "80 per hundreds of teachers..." (there is only one hundred and one percentage) and so I think that "percent" is a singular noun, and not a plural one which happens not to take an "s".
     

    dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    So are you implying that "percent" can be plural only with "-s" in the context below?

    He was taught to use fractions and percents.

    No other contexts?
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    So are you implying that "percent" can be plural only with "-s" in the context below?

    He was taught to use fractions and percents.

    No other contexts?

    I agree with you again. :D

    Yes, it is only plural in contexts like this one where you are referring to more than one ratio. Even in the context you gave some might use the word percentages instead of percents.
     

    LouisaB

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    Hello, everyone, and apologies for busting in late.

    Does it help if we think of 'percentage'/'percent' as a collective noun, which I think effectively is what it is? It's a noun describing a number of elements (each being 'one part in a hundred') lumped together.

    Thus, although a wolf pack may comprise twenty wolves, it's still singular - unless there is more than one pack in the forest, in which case it's plural.

    Or does it not help at all?

    LouisaB
     

    dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Then I conclude that it works just in the same way as with "a lot of" for instance.

    A lot of money was wasted.
    70 percent of money was wasted.

    A lot of employees are hard-working.
    60 percent of employees are hard-working.

    If so, then I got the point. :D Thanks.
     

    quietdandelion

    Banned
    Formosa/Chinese
    Thanks, my friends, for the heated and intriguing comment and advice.
    Louisa's idea is pretty clean and neat--think of percent as a collective noun. It's easier to see and to explain it to students.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I'm amazed this has created so much discussion after the very clear explanations near the top of the thread. There seems to be a strong pull to think of percent as some kind of unit, or fraction. It isn't.

    80 per cent
    80 per hundred
    80 in every hundred

    Things would be completely different if we were talking about hundredths, but we're not.
     

    tomandjerryfan

    Senior Member
    English (Canada)
    Thanks, LV4.
    I'm still wondering since the number of something is over two, we have to use the plural form.

    I would say: If something is over one, we have to use the plural form.

    Example: one and a half cakes (or am I wrong?)

    You are correct. The plural would be used here because you need two cakes, a whole one and a half of one, in order to have one and a half cakes.
     

    mrbilal87

    Senior Member
    English (NAmE)
    I'm amazed this has created so much discussion after the very clear explanations near the top of the thread. There seems to be a strong pull to think of percent as some kind of unit, or fraction. It isn't.

    80 per cent
    80 per hundred
    80 in every hundred

    Things would be completely different if we were talking about hundredths, but we're not.

    Hi Panjandrum,

    With all due respect, I strongly disagree. Percents are fractions. 80 per cent can be expressed as 80/100 in mathematical terms.

    Cheers!
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    I'm amazed this has created so much discussion after the very clear explanations near the top of the thread.
    Well, I'm not that surprised.
    Percent (per cent) is a strange word indeed.

    (1) On the one hand, it's made of...
    a preposition (per) followed by a cardinal (cent, Romance form of hundred, as we said before).
    (which, I think, amounts just about to what Panjandrum said, albeit in a different way).

    (2) On the other hand, it can behave exactly like any ordinary noun (and I'm not talking of the percent that means percentage) at least in one case, i.e. when you say :
    Half a percent.
    If you can say half a percent, you could easily imagine saying *80 percents, couldn't you? But you can't. It wouldn't make sense when you think of (1).
    I would say that such a phrase as half a percent is strongly suspect to me, logically speaking. Also note that, in this case, you can no longer write it in two words (?half a per cent). Or can you? I'd have to check. If yes, then it's even dodgier than I thought.

    EDIT : You can.
     

    dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    My google matches:

    "half a percent" - 214,000
    "half a per cent" - 59,000

    show that they both are fairly common expressions.

    One more thing - quoted from here:

    Material contained in the Content may not be duplicated or redistributed without the prior written consent of Farlex, except that one print copy of search output is permitted for use within the customer's organization and that search output may be stored temporarily in electronic media for editing or reformatting and subsequent printing of one print copy of search output for internal use.
    Source
    "n.1. pl. percent also per cent One part in a hundred"

    What exactly do they mean by this plural "percent"? Can the word "percent", alone, be either singular or plural? Or maybe they mean a plural word being the object of "of" (then also "percent" is plural)? That's pretty confusing. :confused:
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hi Panjandrum,

    With all due respect, I strongly disagree. Percents are fractions. 80 per cent can be expressed as 80/100 in mathematical terms.

    Cheers!
    Mathematically I agree with you. Linguistically I don't, because percent is treated as if it still had it's literal meaning - per hundred. It seems to me that keeping this in mind should resolve the problem.

    Of course, it had never occurred to me (having a mathematical background) to think of percent in any other way. It's curious how someone else's perception of a very ordinary concept can be so different.
    _____________________________________

    I've just thought of an analogy.
    Percent is a bit like miles/hour, or kilometers/hour.
    If I am walking briskly down the road I am walking at four miles/hour - not four miles/hours.
     

    dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I've just thought of an analogy.
    Percent is a bit like miles/hour, or kilometers/hour.
    If I am walking briskly down the road I am walking at four miles/hour - not four miles/hours.

    That's a good point!
    But I'm still unsure what part of speech "percent" is in the sentence that has already aroused this heated discussion:

    Female teachers represent 80 percent of the school staff.

    Should I treat it as an adverb? Or as a noun? I need a firm opinion. Thanks.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    If you need a firm opinion, there are several above to choose from :D
    adverb - not a noun - adjective - noun singular - noun collective - noun plural.

    Based on several dictionary references, it's clear that there is more than one answer.

    Adverb: <number> percent
    (1) Expressing a proportion - the main usage discussed above.

    (2) As part of a compound noun, typically relating to government securities, usually in plural form. "Buy US four percents!" "Sell all of my three percents!"

    Noun: percent - without a preceding number.
    (3) A score or proportion - a percentage (see above). "What is the percent of fat in that ice-cream?" In this use, you could say that different ice-creams have different percents of fat (but I wouldn't).

    (4) A unit of "one percent" - directly equivalent to "hundredth". Half a percent - one and a half percents - 14 percents.

    (5) A mathematical concept - we are learning about fractions and percents this week.
     

    mrbilal87

    Senior Member
    English (NAmE)
    I'm no math whiz, but I feel both the linguistical and the mathematical meanings are in agreement here. 80/100 is equal to 80 per cent, which represents 80 units per each single set of 100. The fact that we're referring to an individual set of 100 is the reason we use the singular in that case.

    The same goes for kilometres per hour. 30 km/h can be expressed in fractional as 30/1, implying that for each individual hour you travel 30 klicks.
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi All,

    I stand by what I said earlier about 80 percent.

    Panj wrote:
    (4) A unit of "one percent" - directly equivalent to "hundredth". Half a percent - one and a half percents - 14 percents.

    I hope he (Panj) didn't mean to have those pesky red "s"es, I think they are wrong.

    mrbilal87 wrote:
    I'm no math whiz, but I feel both the linguistical and the mathematical meanings are in agreement here. 80/100 is equal to 80 per cent, which represents 80 units per each single set of 100. The fact that we're referring to an individual set of 100 is the reason we use the singular in that case.

    The same goes for kilometres per hour. 30 km/h can be expressed in fractional as 30/1, implying that for each individual hour you travel 30 klicks.

    I mostly agree with this, but I would put too much stock in looking at the hundreds. Look at how we count hundreds.
    one hundred
    two hundred
    three hundred

    Hundred is one of those words that is sometimes written as its own plural.


    It is true that by convention, in English, we don't form the plural of units of measure.

    How long is the room?
    Ten meters (10 m).

    For novelty I propose we treat percent as though we were writing the units of something. I don't think this is the case, but at least it's novel. :D

    Amazed as Panj was many posts ago that this thread continues,
    AWordLover
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Panj wrote:
    (4) A unit of "one percent" - directly equivalent to "hundredth". Half a percent - one and a half percents - 14 percents.
    I hope he (Panj) didn't mean to have those pesky red "s"es, I think they are wrong.
    Sorry.
    He meant them. For example:
    1994 Sci. Amer. Mar. 9/3 The measurements have large errors (of tens of percents), so the results quoted are actually quite fuzzy.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Sorry.
    He meant them. For example:
    Yes - here the stress is on the plural nature of several individual "percents" (or percentages, or percentage points). From your quoted example the only interpretation, I think, can be that normally you would expect around a single percentage point for the average error, so the fact we have tens of percents (tens of percentage points, etc) is significant.
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Yes - here the stress is on the plural nature of several individual "percents" (or percentages, or percentage points). From your quoted example the only interpretation, I think, can be that normally you would expect around a single percentage point for the average error, so the fact we have tens of percents (tens of percentage points, etc) is significant.

    I like your thinking, and one could easily imagine a list of numbers each written as a percent and then speak of 14 of the numbers as 14 percents.

    It is not as easy to explain what Panj meant by "one and a half percents".

    EDIT: Maybe it's an odd statistical thing, we have pages containing numbers, each written as a percent. On average there are 1.5 mistakes per page. I guess it would make sense to say one and a have percents per page are in error.
    Is that what you meant Panj? :D
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Let's simplify and go back to the posts that saw percent as a collective noun or as equivalent to "a lot of"....

    The bottom line is that with countable nouns, "x per cent" takes a plural verb: "20% of the students were in favour of Tony Blair".

    And with uncountable nouns, it takes the singular: "50% of the cake was eaten by the students; the teachers ate the other 50%"

    Loob
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I like your thinking, and one could easily imagine a list of numbers each written as a percent and then speak of 14 of the numbers as 14 percents.

    It is not as easy to explain what Panj meant by "one and a half percents".

    EDIT: Maybe it's an odd statistical thing, we have pages containing numbers, each written as a percent. On average there are 1.5 mistakes per page. I guess it would make sense to say one and a have percents per page are in error.
    Is that what you meant Panj? :D
    No, sorry, the evidence appears to be that "a percent" is occasionally used to mean "one hundredth". 14 percents = 14 hundredths, NOT 14 percentages.

    I don't like it either, but it is used often enough to make its way into the OED as accepted.
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    No, sorry, the evidence appears to be that "a percent" is occasionally used to mean "one hundredth". 14 percents = 14 hundredths, NOT 14 percentages.

    I don't like it either, but it is used often enough to make its way into the OED as accepted.

    Thank you for your patience in explaining this Panj.
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi All,

    Panj's explanation:
    No, sorry, the evidence appears to be that "a percent" is occasionally used to mean "one hundredth". 14 percents = 14 hundredths, NOT 14 percentages.

    I don't like it either, but it is used often enough to make its way into the OED as accepted.

    This has continued to bother me. I've lost sleep. It's making me irritable.
    I'm going to attempt to show that saying one percent means "one hundredth" is no reason to say .14 = 14 hundredths = 14 percents.

    I too have consulted a number of dictionaries. And confirmed what I had already believed, a percent can be taken to mean one hundredth. Many of these dictionaries then go on to give an example. Observe this exerpt from the American Heritage Dictionary

    1. pl. percent also per cent One part in a hundred: The report states that 42 percent of the alumni contributed to the endowment. Also called per centum.
    I will (pedantically) give my own explanation.

    Consider the number 23.45 expressing a value in our decimal system.

    The digit 2 is in the tens place.
    The digit 3 is in the units place.
    The digit 4 is in the tenths place.
    The digit 5 is in the hundredths place.

    The dictionary definition is telling us that we can consider a number as representing some amount of hundredths. This can be convenient, especially if we dislike fractons.

    It is perfectly and 100% correct to refer to .14 as 14 percent.
    We should refer to .14 as 14 percents only if we would say it is 14 hundredthses. I would never say hundredthses.

    I believe that timepeac has adequately explained the Scientific American example sited earlier.

    I'm hopeful that people will reconsider their belief that the dictionaries support the view that .14 is 14 percents.

    Exhausted from my rant,
    AWordLover
     

    winklepicker

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    Well we can't let this thread lie fallow can we?

    Per centum comes from the Latin, shortened to per cent. Per meaning through or by, centum meaning a hundred. Per is therefore a preposition and centum is a noun. No adverbs here that I can see.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Well we can't let this thread lie fallow can we?

    Per centum comes from the Latin, shortened to per cent. Per meaning through or by, centum meaning a hundred. Per is therefore a preposition and centum is a noun. No adverbs here that I can see.
    Not saying that "percent" is an adverb, but a preposition and a noun can act as an adverb.

    He did it by stealth = he did it stealthfully.
     

    Aiden83

    New Member
    English
    I believe that we can consider per cent as an adverb.

    The water tank was mostly full.
    The water tank was 80 per cent full.

    mrbilal87,

    When you say
    Percents are fractions
    , should this be percentages are fractions, not percents are fractions? I'm not sure. Anyhow, I think there is a subtlety here:
    80 per cent is a fraction, as is
    1 per cent, or even a per cent. But per cent without a, 1 or 80 is not a fraction. It is merely <empty numerator>/100

    LV4-26,
    Consider one and a half per cent. You suggested that, and then later confirmed with your edited post, that you may think to say one and a half per cents.
    If we consider
    (one and a half) cakes,
    and keep in mind that a per cent is merely <empty>/100, thus
    (one and a half) (per cent)s
    (one and a half) (out of one hundred)s

    Sounds funny, but logically makes sense. Indeed, per cent singular seems incorrect here. On the contrary, it would make complete sense to say
    one and a half (out of one hundred)
    one and a half (per cent).

    It has to come down to whether we can consider per cent as a noun, which would support the cake example, or to be "out of one hundred"

    If we incorrectly consider that per cent is a full fraction (i.e. not empty in the numerator) equal to 1/100,
    (per cent)
    (1/100)
    then it is easy to see why we would say 1.5 per cent:
    1.5*(1/100)
    1.5(per cent)
    This might be why per cent is so much more acceptable than per cents, because as an engineer I would never say 1.5y as 1.5ys. As long as per cent is considered as a complete fraction by so many it is hard to justify using per cents



    (2) On the other hand, it can behave exactly like any ordinary noun (and I'm not talking of the percent that means percentage) at least in one case, i.e. when you say :
    Half a percent.
    If you can say half a percent, you could easily imagine saying *80 percents, couldn't you? But you can't. It wouldn't make sense when you think of (1).
    I would say that such a phrase as half a percent is strongly suspect to me, logically speaking. Also note that, in this case, you can no longer write it in two words (?half a per cent). Or can you? I'd have to check. If yes, then it's even dodgier than I thought.

    EDIT : You can.

    I just realised that I too succumbed to treating per cent as a whole fraction.

    When I said:
    The water tank was mostly full.
    The water tank was 80 per cent full.

    I replaced mostly with 80 per cent. 80 per cent altogether may seem like an adverb, but per cent by itself I think winklepicker made the correct conclusion.
     
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    mrbilal87

    Senior Member
    English (NAmE)
    When you say Quote:
    Percents are fractions
    , should this be percentages are fractions, not percents are fractions? I'm not sure. Anyhow, I think there is a subtlety here:
    80 per cent is a fraction, as is
    1 per cent, or even a per cent. But per cent without a, 1 or 80 is not a fraction. It is merely <empty numerator>/100
    Now I'm confused. :confused:

    It doesn't seem like often that you just refer to a "per cent" without some numerator being implied. I always thought of "per cent" and "percentage" as synonyms. 80 per cent is the same as 80/100, which is a fraction. But even if the numerator were not given (say, x), it would still be a fraction.
     
    Last edited:

    clevermizo

    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    Well we can't let this thread lie fallow can we?

    Per centum comes from the Latin, shortened to per cent. Per meaning through or by, centum meaning a hundred. Per is therefore a preposition and centum is a noun. No adverbs here that I can see.

    It's a fallacy to use etymology to recapitulate synchronic usage in a different language, in my opinion. That's like saying "communicate" can only be used as an adjective or a participle because it derives from a Romance past participle, when we clearly have lexicalized it as a verb. While we do use per as a separate preposition, we most certainly do not use centum which does not exist in English. Percent acts on its own, apparently adverbially as well. This is also reflected in its orthography as a single word.

    Besides, see timpeac's post. Plenty of preposition+noun complexes get used adverbially. What about I'll have it done by noon?
     
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