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Which of these two statements is correct?

Did you know 1 in 4 kids have an undetected vision problem?

Did you know 1 in 4 kids has an undetected vision problem?

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  • Both versions are acceptable and are standard English. For more info, there's the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum et al., The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL), page 504, in the section on proportional constructions, example [15.iii] "One in a hundred students takes/take drugs."
    – F.E.
    Feb 19, 2015 at 20:49
  • Do you mean 1 out of 4 specific kids, or do you mean 1/4 of all kids?
    – Barmar
    Feb 19, 2015 at 21:02
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    It looks like your thread is about to be closed. :( -- Let me give you a brief explanation on your example. "Did you know [ (that) 1 in 4 kids has/have an undetected vision problem] ?" has a subordinate clause ("[ (that) 1 in 4 kids … problem]") and the subject of that subordinate clause is the noun phrase "one in four kids". The subject is plural in number due to the plural head "kids" and that supports a plural verb ("have"), but the singular "one" within the subject allows the optional singular override ("has").
    – F.E.
    Feb 19, 2015 at 21:32
  • The statement is referring to 25% of children. Feb 20, 2015 at 1:20

3 Answers 3

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You want to use "has," as the subject is one kid, not four kids. This is the kind of thing where the technically correct version doesn't sound as good to our ears as the alternative, but the logic makes sense if you restructure the sentence: "Did you know that in 4 kids, 1 has an undetected vision problem?"

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  • The subject is one kid?? You must think the grammatical structure is: (one kid has a problem)/four.
    – Greg Lee
    Feb 19, 2015 at 19:40
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    That's exactly how I read it, though the fractions point is great. This seems like a question that could be defended on either side. Feb 19, 2015 at 20:29
  • So why claim that only one alternative should be used? Feb 19, 2015 at 21:51
  • Completely fair, Edwin! I was hasty in my first response, but after the discussion it's easy to see why both are acceptable. Feb 19, 2015 at 22:03
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Since your sentences refers only to one kid, the verb should be "has."

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  • It doesn't refer only to one kid. It refers to 1/4 of all kids.
    – Barmar
    Feb 19, 2015 at 21:01
  • That's true that when worded as an actual fraction, the verb would be plural. But if worded as given, that is, "one in [plural]," the verb is singular. Think of the phrase as "one [kid] in four kids." Feb 19, 2015 at 21:12
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    Have you looked at the linked duplicate question? The answers there indicate that there's no definitive rule one way or the other.
    – Barmar
    Feb 19, 2015 at 21:18
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    Why can't we think of the phrase as "one quarter of the kids"? Feb 19, 2015 at 21:50
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"Have". Fractions are grammatically plural -- 0.25 kids on average have a problem.

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  • Not so. All "one in [plural number]" phrases always take a singular verb. Feb 19, 2015 at 20:22
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    Answers which cite external authorities tend to attract upvotes.
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 19, 2015 at 21:08
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    Also answers that are correct. Feb 19, 2015 at 21:48

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