This question already has an answer here:

I have just seen some answers here to the effect that

Ten percent of the pie is mine

is correct.

This seems rather odd to me. Ten percent is a plural subject, so why should it have a singular verb.

Note that, grammatically, of the pie is subordinate to percent and should be inessential; that is, it should be possible to remove it without affecting the grammaticality of the sentence.

My question is not whether the example sentence is correct (that is the question of which this is alledgedly a duplicate) but why it is considered correct -- given my grammatical objection -- and for how long it has been. I would guess that this is a relatively new phenomenon and that in the good old days, there was no special rule for this case, such that the verb would have had to be are.

References please.

Please do not mark this question as a duplicate without reading it. How is it possible to mistake a question asking why something is considered correct and for how long with one asking what is correct?

marked as duplicate by Andrew Leach Jun 11 at 12:47

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 1
    I don't think you'll find references, because the use of percentages hasn't been common enough for long enough. To me ten percent of the pie is singular, even though the quantifier contains the number ten. I'm not sure the quantifier is really greater than one anyway - it only seems that way if you ignore percent or try to read percent as it it involves breaking the pie down into separate pieces and counting them out, rather than being merely numerical. – user339660 Jun 11 at 8:59
  • @Minty, I think a distinction should be made between grammatical and mathematical number. Ten thirds are still ten of something; that they are also less than one of something else is grammatically irrelevant. – Toothrot Jun 11 at 9:02
  • But not ten of the thing that is the subject, so the subject does not have a ten-ness. It's not like ten of the pies. Here I'm not sure the subject is even countable, but if it is I think the number has to 0.1. – user339660 Jun 11 at 9:06
  • 1
    I'm not - I said in my first comment that the subject was ten percent of the pie. If the subject was pie, obviously that would be singular. – user339660 Jun 11 at 9:28
  • 2
    I did read it. But you haven't linked to the other question and said why it doesn't answer your question. You also seem to have founded your question on a false premise, namely that ten percent is "ten percents" and must be plural. It isn't; it's a single lump of something. Even if it's "ten percent of the population", you are likely considering it as a single entity; and if not, you are actually considering each person within that ten percent individually, then the verb might be plural. But that doesn't happen very often at all. – Andrew Leach Jun 11 at 13:59

It is true that 'ten percent' is the subject here. Plural or singular - that must agree with the object ('pie') of the preposition 'of', following 'ten percent', to provide subject and verb agreement:


Example: Twelve percent of the building has/have been renovated. The subject is twelve percent, which will be either singular or plural depending on the object of the preposition that follows. In this sentence, the object of the preposition is building, which is always singular. So the correct answer is has.

'Pie' is singular, so is 'ten percent' in this particular sentence.

  • It is incredible to me that ten <noun> should ever be singular. Something singular is something whose number is one. Something whose number is 10 is not something whose number is 1. – Toothrot Jun 11 at 11:51
  • (a) 'Prepositional object' is standard. However, the prepositional phrase is as much part of the subject here as is 'concerned' in 'The people concerned attended a meeting at the Parish Hall.' – Edwin Ashworth Jun 11 at 13:06
  • @EdwinAshworth, is object the only standard term here? – Toothrot Jun 11 at 14:48
  • No (as per ParentingPatch, say) ... but according to Google Ngrams it's the commonest by a factor of about 2. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 11 at 15:17

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.