Is the following sentence correct?

"Two thirds of land has already been sold."

Is it correct as it has the singular have verb "has" or it shoulb be rewritten with the plural verb "have"?

  • 1
    You're using land as a mass noun, so the singular has is correct here.
    – Lawrence
    Apr 9, 2016 at 2:59
  • 2
    @Lawrence: Technically, the head of the subject is thirds, which is plural, so the verb should also be plural. Apr 9, 2016 at 3:13
  • 2
    @Cerberus In "About seven tenths of air is Nitrogen." with air as a mass noun, I don't think the plural works. With "Three quarters of my students wear glasses.", it does because "my students" is a count noun.
    – Lawrence
    Apr 9, 2016 at 3:23
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    I think "two-thirds" is a written out fraction, which should always be hyphenated. If a "third" is a recognized unit of land in this context, then it should be written "two thirds". Apr 9, 2016 at 3:30
  • 3

1 Answer 1


In the question and related comments, two separate "fraction" issues have emerged.

  1. Should the verb be plural because it refers to a fraction?

Generally speaking - though there are exceptions - the fraction takes the same plurality as the thing it modifies; see here for a good explanation. In the specific context of the present question, "the land" is singular therefore it's appropriate to use the singular verb "has".

  1. Should the fraction be hyphenated?

This depends on how the fraction is being used. In situations where the fraction is a noun, there should be no hyphen, whereas if the fraction is being used as an adjective to describe something else, it should be hyphenated; see here for an explanation. For example:

  • "Two thirds of the land" [the "thirds" here is a plural noun, with "two" being the adjective that modifies it];
  • "Two-thirds share of the land" ["thirds" is now acting as an adjective modifying the noun "share", and "two" is acting like an adverb modifying "thirds"].

So in the present question, it's correct to write the fraction without the hyphen.

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