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Which one is correct:

1- 4.23% of the world (world's) population SPEAKS Arabic.

2- 4.23% of the world (world's) population SPEAK Arabic.

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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, tchrist, MετάEd, Kris, kiamlaluno Mar 16 '13 at 11:27

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Is it like "some of them speak Spanish"? –  Bright Polyglot Mar 15 '13 at 20:49

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

This is a special case. When you have a subject of a sentence which describes a portion (fraction, percentage, all, etc.), you do look to the object of the preposition for its number. See Rule 9 in http://www.grammarbook.com/grammar/subjectVerbAgree.asp "this Grammar Book online resource". For example, one would say "4% of teachers eat bread" but "4% of my house smells terrible." So the correct answer in this case is "4.23% of the world's population speak*s* Arabic."

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The choice mostly depends on the object of the preposition. If the object of the preposition is plural it could be speak. If the object of the preposition is singular, then speaks would be correct — as in:

4.23% of the world speaks

But I believe we need to pay attention to the term population — which is a collective noun.

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“Four out of every five dentists agree. Only one out of every five doctors agrees.” Ok, perhaps so. –  tchrist Mar 15 '13 at 21:32
    
@tchrist I personally agree with Mustafa, but you are right as well. "80% of the dentists agree. Only 20% of the doctors agree." This works the same way. –  zwangxian Mar 16 '13 at 4:51

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