Singular/plural - 1 out of 5 children is/are ... 1 in 5 children is/are ...

Discussion in 'English Only' started by jade40, Jan 10, 2007.

  1. jade40 New Member

    Hello everyone,
    I just saw on a poster today on the road with the statement '1 out of 5 children is sexually solicited online'. Although I'm pretty sure it is grammatically correct to use 'is' doesn't look or sound right to me. It flows more naturally to say 'are'. I just wanted to verify that grammatically, its supposed to be with 'is' since it's referring to 1 child...??


  2. tatis Senior Member

    Spanish, México
    I would say that the poster is correct. It is 'IS'.
  3. jimreilly

    jimreilly Senior Member

    American English
    One out of five is....
    Twenty percent are....
    Twenty out of a hundred are....
  4. Fez Member

    English, Australia
    Yes you're right, "one child in 5 is" is grammatically correct. However, as you said, when speaking, it is such a common grammatical mistake to say for example "one in five children are", that it sounds strange for us to hear "one in five children is". Yet the correct sentence is "one in five children is" because take away the rest of the sentence and you have the basic sentence "one child is", which cannot be changed to "one child are". It's only because you put that plural in there to give more information that people get confused and use the plural "are".
  5. l3376876 Banned

    Chinese, Taiwan
    It's as clear as crystal that "is" is grammatically correct.
  6. jade40 New Member

    Thanks for all the quick responses!!
  7. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    If it flows more naturally for you with "are", you have a lot of company. But "are" is wrong.

    The problem is that the grammar contradicts logic. Obviously "one out of five" is not talking about one child bu many, 20 percent of all children.

    "Everyone" (all, all people) is also plural, logically, but it is singular grammatically. Same problem. ;)

  8. gerardovox

    gerardovox Senior Member

    I know I am a latecomer but I was just having the same problem.
    I don't think it is so clear cut.
    #1 grammar is always catching up with current usage, and a quick googlefight reveals:
    "1 in 5 children are" 1.960 hits "1 in 5 children is" 884 hits
    "1 in 5 Americans are" 4540 hits "1 in 5 Americans is" 2950 hits
    etc etc ad nauseum
    I would argue on the basis of that (rather unscientific) survey that it is moving past the realm of "common mistake" right into "most native speakers agree" territory.

    2.MSword spelling&grammar tool seems to favor the "are" version. That is extremely unfortunate if you happen to prefer the "is" version. Because even if it is right, the spell-checker is going to tell people it is wrong. :cross:
    So people really have to be sure of their grammar when they are proofreading a long document to defy the suggestion to change it. Especially when logic and reason are also telling them to make the correction. :confused:
    I think only one in 5 people are going to ignore it.:)
  9. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I agree with you, gerardovox, except that I don't think the plural with eg 1 in 5 was a mistake ...

    One in five children are :tick:
    One child in five is :tick:
  10. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    In isolation, that is to say with a single group of five, "1 in 5 is..." seems logically correct to me. I agree with Loob's open-mindedness, because most often "1 in 5" refers to a proportion of a larger group than five of anything.

    Of the millions of English speakers, only one in five are apt to use the term 'goose milk cheese' to describe a rare delicacy.

    In that foolish example, there are many ones and many fives. Thus the plural 'are' is appropriate.
  11. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Small changes in the wording make a big difference to how it feels - and I regret to say that how it feels is what governs whether I use a singular or plural verb.

    One child in five ... sounds singular.
    One in five children ... sounds plural.

    One out of five children ... I'm not sure, now that I have to decide in an artificial context :)
  12. Redshade Banned

    I am not usually a prescriptive uber-grammarian but
    I have to say that I would not only always say "is" in this instance
    but also feel obliged to correct anyone who used the "are" form.
    This looks like an AE/BE argument. :)
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2008
  13. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Why do you say that, Redshade?:confused:
  14. Redshade Banned

    Because I would have received a thick ear at school for using the "are" version.:)
    I think it was gerardovox's research which linked the "are" form to "Americans" on an American search engine that persuaded me.
    <<Leading off-topic.>>
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 27, 2008
  15. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    Except that you have also seen comments from speakers in the United Kingdom who report the same willingness to use "are". Perhaps you are forgetting that the number of native speakers of English in the United States is approximately five times the number of native speakers of English found in Great Britain. One will therefore find considerably more uses of just about any form on an American site.

    <<Responding to an off-topic point, now deleted.>>
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 27, 2008
  16. Ynez Senior Member

    "is" wins when writing the numbers.

    2.510 de "one in five children is".
    861 de "one in five children are".

    147 de "one in five children is" site:uk
    397 de "one in five children are" site:uk

    It seems that, in relation, British use more "are".

    313 de "one out of five children is".
    247 de "one out of five children are"
  17. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I've been thinking about panj's post 11, especially as I now (belatedly!) see that gerardovox's points about "one in five" were added to a thread with the title "1 out of 5...."

    I don't think I say "one out of five x"; I only say "one in five x". But I say "two, three {etc} out of five x" in preference to "two, three {etc} in five x".

    I suspect I am very strange:eek:

    But it least it means panj's dilemma over "one out of five children" doesn't arise for me...

    EDIT: Interesting googlestats, Ynez:)
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2008
  18. Ynez Senior Member

    I think you are not that strange :) I was surprised to see more "one in five" than "one out of five", but now I understood the normal use, thanks to your comment. ;)
  19. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Please try to keep to the thread topic.
    If tempted to respond to something that is not on-topic, please do so either by private message, by referring to another thread on the topic, or by starting a new thread.
  20. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I think Cuchu makes a good point about one in five probably being plural, because if you only had five people, say, you'd say 'one of the five'.

    However, I also accept that the further the verb is away from the one the greater the probable pull of the plural and its effect on the choice of verb form. That's a long-winded way of saying that I find I say 'one in five is dyslexic' but 'one in five of the magnificent Turkish janissaries are playing the cornemuse'.

    I wouldn't raise an eyebrow, however, at 'one in five of the magnificent Turkish janissaries is playing the cornemuse'.

    I would react in the same way - i.e. it could be is or are - to 'one out of five children', though it would, I suspect we are agreed, have to be 'one out of the five children is'.

    I think it's a case where either will do perfectly well.
  21. Defence New Member

    Ontario, Canada
    English- Canada
    Yeah, I'd say that's the best way to put it. Basically you need a noun in its plural form to use are.
  22. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Thanks, Defence:)

    Welcome to English Only!
  23. Redshade Banned

    Would not "one child in five is.." be a better construction?
    I can't believe the debate has got this far.This is primary school stuff. "One - subject of sentence is singular = singular verb formation .
  24. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Primary school stuff is simple. Language may be less so.

    We have measured the bellies of seventy-five children. Based on the measurements, we find that one child in five is obese. [What about the other seventy? :) ]
  25. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I agree with Loob, and I don't say "one out of five children". I think it "sounds" singular though. "One in five children" is plural because it means "one fifth of all children".
  26. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    We've been assuming that the was or is will be followed by an adjective, or adjectival phrase. However, often, surely, the predicate determines the choice for you.

    Complements must agree with subjects in number and gender.

    1. One in five children born is a Chinaman.

    2. One in five children are little horrors.

    I'm not very happy about 2. I think I'd change it to One in five children is a little horror.

    Also when the is/are is followed by a noun or noun phrase I have little objection to the one-out-of-five form. Strange.
  27. MiaBorg New Member


    I cannot make up my mind whether this one takes singular or plural, can somebody help me please?

    Is it "1 out of 5 teachers is" or is it "1 out of 5 teachers are"?

    Thanks a lot!
  28. Gordonedi

    Gordonedi Senior Member

    UK (Scotland) English
    Hello, MiaBorg and welcome to the English Only forum !

    Use "is" because it is the one that you are writing about, not the five.

    "One out of five teachers" is singular.
    Last edited: May 2, 2009
  29. MiaBorg New Member

    Thanks and thanks :)
  30. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    It's not quite so clear-cut, Mia;)

    See this previous thread:
    1 out of 5 children is/are ... 1 in 5 ... singular/plural
    Last edited: May 2, 2009
  31. banana pancakes Senior Member

    I don't know the grammar behind it but I would say that you can use both, I would even say that 'are' sounds more natural.
  32. curlyboy20 Senior Member

    Lima, Peru.
    Peruvian Spanish.
    I disagree, banana pancakes. Would "one out of 5 teachers are usually wrong" sound correct?

    "One out of 5 teachers is usually wrong" sounds a lot better.
  33. banana pancakes Senior Member

    It sounds fine to me. Like I said I'm just talking from a spoken English point of view and that can vary massively. But I wouldn't bat an eyelid at the use of 'are' in these cases.
  34. curlyboy20 Senior Member

    Lima, Peru.
    Peruvian Spanish.
    Good point, sorry I missed that :) It's very common to hear people make common mistakes which have unfortunately, in some cases, become the norm, as it were.
  35. banana pancakes Senior Member

    Check out Loob's post to a thread about it - it's actually quite interesting.

    And thinking about it, if you are talking about 'one in five teachers' surely you are talking indirectly about more than one teacher? If you surveyed 100 teachers about being overworked and 20 said they were overworked, then although you reduce the figures down to a smaller fraction, the fact remains that you are still referring to the 20 teachers in your survey.

    If you only surveyed five teachers then I would say definitely to use 'is'.

  36. desert_fox Senior Member

    1 out of 5 IS..
    2 out of 5 ARE...
  37. curlyboy20 Senior Member

    Lima, Peru.
    Peruvian Spanish.
    Complicated indeed. I did check that thread out and there's more to this than meets the eye.

    If you're surveying 5 teachers and only one of them is complaining about being overworked, I assume you'd say:

    One out of 5 teachers is complaining about being overworked.
    One in 5 teachers is complaning about being overworked.

  38. johndot Senior Member

    English - England
    Out of five teachers, one are wrong? Yeah, right.
  39. Sallyb36

    Sallyb36 Senior Member

    Liverpool UK
    British UK
    I agree with Johndot.
    It should be one out of five teachers is...
  40. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    To my mind there is only one possiblilty when the subject is ONE: is.
    Let us say that one out of/in five are :cross:etc. is a very common mistake that is spreading and will eventually become totally accepted as is the way with English. A similar mistake is neither X nor Y are :cross:coming to the party tonight, which should have is. None used to be exclusively singular, now none are... is quite acceptable alongside none is.. (obsolescent), and a number of people were killed is now the only possibility, although fifty years ago, Fowler, the grammarian, insisted that a number of should always be singular.
  41. johndot Senior Member

    English - England
    This cannot be right, surely? Did Fowler really say this, in this way?

    In the sentence “A number of people xxx killed”, people were killed, a number was not.
  42. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    Yes he did, but he also recommended usages like his whereabouts is unknown with a singular noun, because you can only be in one place at one time, and hamstringed (which I have never seen or heard) intead of hamstrung, because it means cutting a muscle not stringing it like a bow, both of which preferences seem quite eccentric.
  43. taked4700 Senior Member

    japanese japan
    Excuse me, but let me join in.

    Firstly, let me make sure once again.

    1. "One in five children are obese."

    2. "One child in five is obese."

    3. "One out of five children are obese."

    4. "One child out of five is obese."

    Are these sentences above idiomatic?
    If so, the sentences below would be unidiomatic, wouldn't they?

    5. "One in five children is obese."

    6. "One child in five are obese."

    7. "One out of five children is obese."

    8. "One child out of five are obese."

    Secondly, let me make an assumption.

    This is the problem of what you see in the word 'one'.
    If you see plurality, then you use 'are' and if singularity then 'is' is a natural choice.

    What decides which you would see, singularity or plurality is the degree of figurativeness, in other words, when 'one' is modified with other word like 'only one' or 'one child', the degree of figurativeness is high, and it is natural to use 'is'. When 'five' is modified with other word like 'five children', then, 'are' sounds natural.

    What do you say?

    Many thanks in advance.
  44. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I'll put my comments in brown.

  45. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    As you can see from the posts in this combined thread, opinions vary and no consensus can be found.

    I know it's off topic, but I can't let this pass without comment.
    Are you sure?

    New Fowler's Modern English Usage says that "a number of" takes a plural verb: "the number of" takes a singular verb.

    I'm sure, though I can't find it just now, that my older Fowler says the same.
  46. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    Fowler must have departed this life many decades ago and I was talking about a book by him that I possessed long, long ago - much has changed since. English changes faster than most languages.
  47. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    One fifth of the children over the age of ten ___ obese.

    Note, the subject of this sentence is "one" (or "one fifth").

    Please fill in the blank!
  48. curlyboy20 Senior Member

    Lima, Peru.
    Peruvian Spanish.
    I guess I would choose "are" because "one fifth" would be more than 1 child and therefore, it's a plural subject. Any other opinions?
  49. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    You're right, panj. Here it is in my second edition Fowler-revised-by-Gowers (1968) under the headword number
    Since Arrius used the phrase "50 years ago", I haven't checked the 1908 Fowler*, but I imagine it said something similar.

    Sorry, I couldn't let it go either:(

    Oh, and to bring this post back on topic, I agree that we won't reach a consensus on "one out of X [plural noun] is/are". Which, as I mentioned earlier in this combined thread, I don't say - though I do say "one in X [plural noun] are".

    The safest option is "one [singular noun] in X is".

    *I have now. I couldn't find anything...
    Last edited: May 2, 2009
  50. johndot Senior Member

    English - England
    One-fifth of five children is one child. That child is obese.
    One-fifth of ten children is two children. Those two are obese.
    One-fifth of the population is obese.
    One-fifth is a singular fraction.

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