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Joined: 20 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:29 pm
Post subject: One-third has or have?
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I've seen this in either way

one-third has


one-third have

I was wondering if there is any rule whether it should be has or have.

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Joined: 12 Jul 2009
Posts: 2699
Location: UK
PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2012 11:36 am
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The linguistic (therefore descriptive as opposed to prescriptive) answer to this is that both are used and it's dependent on whether you view the portion as being singular in nature, or consisting of numerous (therefore plural) elements.

There is a big divide between American and British English on the treatment of collective nouns where Britain tends to be extremy accommodating of semantic plurality over syntactic singularity. So I could say both, depending on what I wanted to emphasise, which in America it would be much less so.

Something that people often don't forget (and therefore generalise out as being bad English) is that there are numerous exceptions to subject and verb agreement. One is measure expressions relating to portion quantity, and the other is quantification of nouns, and using 'One third OF <something>' is a mixture of both.

So many people think they know the 'rules' of English and take an explanation of a general tendency (subject agrees with verb) and therefore transform it into the ONLY applicable rule, which then leads these arrogant idiots (I've had extremely bad experiences and hundreds of arguments on the internet against these misguided prescriptivists) who say "Well, people do say a numer of children have gone home but it's grammatically incorrect because the word 'number' is singular so the verb really should be 'have').

So once you've discounted those people we're pretty much agreed on the linguistic stance of these. So while you might find this sort of agreement much more prevalent in the UK, it's correct in all varieties of English. Anyone who tells you otherwise is somebody who has come across one rule of English and does not have the complete knowledge of the situation and has misapplied it to all agreement.
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