Which of the following is proper grammar usage?

1 in 7 apples becomes green
1 in 7 apple becomes green
1 in 7 apples become green


5 Answers 5


One in seven apples becomes green.

("One in seven apples" means "one [apple] in seven apples"; the "apples" belongs to the "seven", but the verb agrees with the "one [apple]".)

Edited to add: Maybe there's a dialectal difference, or other point of disagreement? Edwin Ashworth links to a similar question whose answers, and their vote-counts, seem to suggest a division between those who agree with me and those would accept "One in seven apples become green." I'm still inclined to recommend becomes, because I know that some speakers accept only become and I do not know whether any accept only become, but that's a recommendation grounded in uncertainty. Hopefully someone can provide more useful evidence.

  • 2
    This is not in line with the most upvoted answers in the thread of which this is a duplicate. Mar 13, 2014 at 21:11
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth: Hmm, you're right. That answer is clearly not by an American, so maybe this is a dialect-dependent issue? (Most of the answers to that question agree with me that the verb should be singular. The top-voted answer thinks that this is "prescriptivists bemoaning" reality, but I'm not a prescriptivist condemning a usage I've encountered, I'm a descriptivist saying that I don't remember encountering this usage. That suggests an unacknowledged dialect difference.)
    – ruakh
    Mar 13, 2014 at 22:19
  • At least one comment over there mentions, and I agree, that this is an AE vs. BE split.
    – Joe M
    Mar 13, 2014 at 22:26
  • What @Edwin said. This answer is just plain wrong, in that it's perfectly normal, logical, and "grammatical" to use the plural verb form here. In the more general case, both are valid, but personally I think I would prefer plural here, since we're probably talking about far more than just that one apple (in total, it might be one million apples out of an original seven million, for example). Mar 13, 2014 at 22:29
  • @ruakh: It's not "evidence", obviously, but there are 5 instances of "one in five voters are", compared to only 4 instances of "one in five voters is". I've no reason to suppose there's any significant regional/dialectal factor in this, apart from the faint possibility that there might be more prescriptive grammarians in the US than the UK. Mar 13, 2014 at 22:36

The phrase "1 in 7" is basically expressing a fraction, not a count. It is not the equivalent of "one", it is the equivalent of "1/7 of the population".

Replace "1 in 7" with "Some" and see what sounds better

Some apples become green.

Some apples becomes green.

"Some apples" is plural, so the plural form of the verb holds.

Howevever, if the phrase was "1 of the 7 apples becomes green" that would be the singular case.


1 in 7 apples becomes green.

The subject is singular, therefor use the singular version of the verb "become". Example: A cat becomes fat. Cat as the subject of this sentence is singular. Therefore the sentence requires the singular version of the verb. If you want to debate what the actual subject of the sentence in question is, know this: "... in 7 apples" is a prepositional phrase and cannot be the subject. Thus, the easy answer to "What is the subject of this sentence?" becomes (haha) "1". Use the singular version of the verb! :)

--Sorry to answer whether to use apples or apple, know this: "7" modifies apples, so apples has to be plural. "1" is the subject, and "in 7 apples" is a prepositional phrase modifying the subject.

1 in 7 apples becomes green.

  • As noted on the related question, a lot depends upon whether the phrase "one in seven" is interpreted as an idiomatic entity, or as "one" modified by the prepositional phrase "in seven". As also noted there, changing it to "one seventh of the apples" would make it plural, even though the number of instances of the subject "seventh" is exactly "one". I think "one in seven" would generally conjugate singular, but would not go so far as to say the plural would be erroneous.
    – supercat
    Mar 13, 2014 at 23:03

Maybe the best way to answer this is to understand what the sentence really means : among seven apples, only one becomes green, while the six others don't.

As you can see, the answer is obvious, which is "1 in 7 apple*s* become*s* green" and any other form is simply wrong and/or meaningless.

  • 1
    I don't think an appeal to semantics helps here, since what "one in seven apples becomes green" really really means is "one-seventh of apples become green". I mean, no one is promising that if you take exactly seven apples, exactly one will become green.
    – ruakh
    Mar 13, 2014 at 22:58
  • What if the OP really meant that exactly one apple out of seven becomes green ? Are we supposed to make assumptions about the context when we're discussing grammar ?
    – ahmed
    Mar 13, 2014 at 23:18
  • 1
    As long as there are more than seven apples in the world, there will always -- necessarily -- be a set of seven apples such that the number that will turn green is either zero or greater than one. So this isn't much of an assumption.
    – ruakh
    Mar 13, 2014 at 23:29
One apple in seven becomes green.

The singular verb is correct. The scenario is repeating many times, but In each set of seven apples, one apple becomes green. The subject of becomes is one apple.


One seventh of the apples become green.

Now you are talking about the group becoming green, and that group is a number of apples all becoming green. So the plural verb is used.

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