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Five percent VS The five percent.

Which one is correct and why?

Because i.e. this page exists http://www.thetwopercent.com/ or the famous slogan ;) "we are the 99%.".

However, on the official apple website: http://www.apple.com/environment/renewable-energy/

is this without the article:

By the end of 2012, we’ll meet the energy needs of our Maiden, North Carolina, data center using entirely renewable sources. To achieve this, we’re building our own facilities that will provide over 60 percent of the clean power we need. It’s another example of Apple’s commitment to designing for energy efficiency — from the ground up.

or here: http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/technolog/survey-81-percent-teachers-think-tablets-help-students-84895

Unfortunately there is some bad news as well: Only about 22 percent of the teachers said that they have access to the right level of technology. Nearly two-thirds — about 63 percent — explained that budget issues are the "biggest barrier to accessing tech in the classroom." (In low-income communities, that statistic jumped to 70 percent.)

And these are the well known websites apple and nbc. I do not understand at all.

Are both ways correct?

When should I use the definite article and when I shouldn't?

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closed as too localized by FumbleFingers, jwpat7, Carlo_R., tchrist, MετάEd Sep 29 '12 at 6:34

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One is a name of a group that doesn't change ("the 99%"), and one is an actual statistical reference. –  simchona Sep 27 '12 at 15:06
    
Could you provide a more deeper analysis as an answer, not as a comment, I think I do not understand. thanks –  Derfder Sep 27 '12 at 15:15

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I'd estimate that 90% of the percentages you'll read or hear in English don't carry a definite article. The remaining 10% are specialized cases when you want to indicate a specific, single entity that can be identified or named by a percentage :)

As the sentences I just wrote demonstrate, the definite article with percentages almost always comes with adjectives or other qualifying information about the percentage. Here's a made-up example:

80% of people will vote along party lines no matter what; candidates focus their campaigns on the 20% who are undecided.

Usage of the definite article with only a percentage is very rare, and almost always some kind of reference or nod to the 1% / 99% that have become American political buzzwords.

In summary:

  • If the percentage has some kind of modifier, use the definite article: "the remaining 10%", "the 20% who are undecided".
  • If it doesn't, almost always skip the article: "10% are remaining", "20% are undecided".
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OK, thanks. So, e.g. if we are talking about en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killer_Instinct_(human_behaviour) and assume that 2% of all people do have this Killer Instict ability, how would you refer to them (this group of people) to other people. With or without "the". For instance: "The two percent of our population have the killer instinct." or "Two percent of our population have the killer instinct"? –  Derfder Sep 27 '12 at 17:05
    
@Derfder If two percent of our population has the killer instinct, then you can refer to them as "the two percent of our population who have the killer instinct" if you wish. One is a statistic, one is a group of people. –  David Schwartz Sep 27 '12 at 18:04
1  
@Derfder, for your example sentence to stand alone, you would have to say "2% of our population have the killer instinct"; if you wanted to discuss this specific group, you would say "the 2% of our population who have the killer instinct are very dangerous"; and if you were speaking in a very limited discourse context where this group is being mentioned many times, you might say "the 2% are very dangerous". Does that help? –  alcas Sep 27 '12 at 20:35
    
OK, thanks a lot ;) –  Derfder Sep 27 '12 at 20:59

The article the serves as a quantifier. It generally means a single thing.

When referring to various percentages, the quantifier is usually the number that preceeds percent, such as 60 percent or 22 percent in your examples above. There is no need for an additional quantifier, such as the, in those examples.

However, sometimes a particular group is defined by the referring to the percentage in which the individuals in that group fall.

It is claimed that 47 percent of the US population do not pay federal income tax. The [group that adds up to] 47 percent may be paying other federal and state taxes.

The reference to the 99 percent means those people who are in the particular (read single collective) group in which there are 99 percent of the wage earners.

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OK, thanks. But what happens if you don't have the previous background information (that 47 percent of the US population do not pay federal income tax) and you just simply say: "47 percent may be paying other federal and state taxes." You do not know if we are talking about people in USA or on some other planet in our Universe etc. Would it be considered correct without using the definite article? –  Derfder Sep 27 '12 at 15:31
    
The article is rarely needed. It is usually used for emphasis. In the phrase we are the 99% it is intended to show a solidarity - this group seeks to stand up to or against the other group that is the 1%. However, since any group can be analysed in various ways, in my example, the makes clear it is the same 47% as in the first sentence. –  bib Sep 27 '12 at 15:59
    
OK, thanks. So, e.g. if we are talking about en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killer_Instinct_(human_behaviour) and assume that 2% of all people do have this Killer Instict ability, how would you refer to them (this group of people) to other people. With or without "the". For instance: "The two percent of our population have the killer instinct." or "Two percent of our population have the killer instinct"? –  Derfder Sep 27 '12 at 17:07
    
Even when you want to identify a group by a percentage, you almost always begin with the statistic, without the. For example, Two percent have a killer instinct. The 2% should be found and treated. First you identify the characteristic, then you refer to the group defined by that characteristic. You could also substitute that for the when referring to the defined group. Also see the helpful addition by @henry. –  bib Sep 27 '12 at 19:51

bib's answer is entirely correct, but doesn't seem to have quite answered the question, so I'll try rephrasing.

The ordinary use of a percent is without an article; in particular, the first introduction of a percent never uses an article. However once a percentage has been introduced, one may wish to refer to that specific portion---that is, to the particular people/objects/etc. making up the percentage---and one refers to that already named portion with a word like "the" or "that".

For instance, in the quote from Apple

To achieve this, we’re building our own facilities that will provide over 60 percent of the clean power we need.

it would be appropriate to follow up with something like

The 60 percent will be come from a mix of sources.

Usually the particular percent being named should be mentioned earlier in the same piece of writing. "The 99%" is a special case where the context is provided by the fact that the term is sufficiently well-known that the reader is supposed to recognize the reference to wealth distribution in the US.

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OK, thanks. So, e.g. if we are talking about en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killer_Instinct_(human_behaviour) and assume that 2% of all people do have this Killer Instict ability, how would you refer to them (this group of people) to other people. With or without "the". For instance: "The two percent of our population have the killer instinct." or "Two percent of our population have the killer instinct"? –  Derfder Sep 27 '12 at 17:04
    
Thanks for the further clarification. See my comment response on my answer. –  bib Sep 27 '12 at 19:54

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