"1 in 10 kids" is or are?
October 3, 2011 11:07 PM   Subscribe

Poking the grammatical hornets' nest. As seen on CNN.com as a headline: "1 in 10 kids isn't (something not relevant)." I think it's ungrammatical, my co-workers think it's correct.

Their Logic: 1 is obviously singular, and in 10 kids is a prepositional phrase (or at least some kind of phrase) so the verb should be singular.

My Logic: we aren't talking about just a single kid. 1 in 10 kids is clearly talking about millions of kids, not one, and therefore the whole thing should be plural. If we said "10% of kids" we'd use the plural verb.

Anyone know what the style guides say? Authoritative answers or statistical arguments (that is, 80% of Americans do X) are also welcome.

Rhetorical: did I manage to avoid grammatical errors in my question?
posted by sbutler to Writing & Language (53 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
They're right. The subject of the sentence is 1, so it takes a singular verb. Saying "aren't" would make it seem like the subject is "10 kids," which isn't accurate.
posted by MadamM at 11:13 PM on October 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


I agree with you. It's not a single child. "1 in 10 kids" is a noun phrase identifying a set of countable entities, just like saying "children under 4" or "the marbles in this bag". The relevant point is that it's a set, and we treat sets as plural entities.
posted by fatbird at 11:15 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think of it as a rate, so how would that work? "20% of kids are in the bottom quintile"...so that would be my guess: it should be "are(n't)" not is(n't)".:. I can see your point about "1", but I think the operative unit is "1 in 10", not the pair "1" and "in 10 kids".

It also doesn't seem to me like the construction should change if it's "5 in 10" rather than "1 in 10". So, I have to...wait, I think I'm agreeing with your conclusion ("aren't" not "isn't") but not your argument for it.
posted by freebird at 11:19 PM on October 3, 2011


But then I thought of "every fourth board on the fence is blue", so it's not that sets are always plural.

However, compare:
One child in ten is malnourished
with
One in ten children are malnourished.
I don't think "1" is the subject because "1 in 10" is an adjective phrase modifying "kids", which is plural, which would govern.
posted by fatbird at 11:23 PM on October 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think you are wrong. 'One' is the singular subject, but I would let a plural verb slide there in any register, probably because of the 'kids'.

I was about to give you Mark Liberman's email, but I'd better not, it's easy enough to find if you want to look. He's a linguist at UPenn and Head Honcho at LanguageLog Plaza, if you ask him, and he's wants to, he may do a post that tells you a lot more about the common usage and its history than you you might want.
posted by Webnym at 11:33 PM on October 3, 2011


I don't think the "one" should be thought of as referring to a set. I think your coworkers are right. We're given an imaginary set of ten typical kids, and one of them is something or other. The construction refers to that one hypothetical kid, who should be referred back to with a singular verb.

If the sentence started with "two in ten kids" there's no question in my mind that you'd use "are", but I think one is a special case.

I can see the "one in ten is an adjective phrase" argument, too, but I don't agree with it.

That said, the fact is that CNN picked a really awkward way to phrase this. Neither really sounds correct.
posted by troublesome at 11:33 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


How many of the children are malnourished? One. One of them is malnourished. Divide a group of children into groups of 10, no matter how many you have in total. In each of those groups, one kid is 100% for-sure going to be malnourished. One of them is malnourished, out of ten, no matter what. One child out of ten isn't getting the food they need; one out of ten children is malnourished.

C'mon people, this is a rule. Sack up and know this. Subject-verb. No one's asking you to like it. Hiyah.
posted by rhizome at 11:48 PM on October 3, 2011 [13 favorites]


troublesome, I don't think it's that awkward, though that was my first reaction too. I think it is because we are missing half the verb and the second noun phrase that make it seem that way.

"One in ten kids isn't able to read at grade level", doesn't seem awkward; nor does "One in ten kids isn't able to wash their own hands properly at ten". (I didn't want to look up developmental milestones, and I hope those are egregiously wrong.) But they wouldn't sound horrible to me with plural verbs either.

But on the other hand, "One kid in ten..." would clearly take a singular verb (that's one reason I think the other formation should too), and would be better.
posted by Webnym at 11:52 PM on October 3, 2011


10% of kids does not refer to the same thing as "1 in 10" -- for one, we don't know the sample size, it's like the old joke about the "4 out of 5 dentists". Try it with "one in ten" instead, I think you are wanting to use "aren't" because you are looking at numerals rather than words. "One in ten" should have the same verb as "one", "one of these children", "one of the children out of 10 surveyed", or "one child per 10" -- isn't.

When one uses different phrasing for describing statistical information, one should be aware that mathematical equivalence is not the same as grammatical equivalence.
posted by yohko at 12:00 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree that "is" sounds wrong, both because it immediately follows a plural and because the "one kid" referred to represents thousands of kids, but CNN is technically correct (the best kind of correct).
posted by Rhaomi at 12:13 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The subject of the sentence, the kid to which they are referring, is singular. Sorry, it might not sound right, but one in ten coworkers is correct. Four out of ten coworkers are correct.
posted by metaphorik at 12:28 AM on October 4, 2011


Take a random selection of ten kids. One is something. Thus, one in ten kids is something. For every ten kids, one is something.

With what you're thinking, it'd be have to be total kids, not a sample. eg, "100 kids in this particular group of 1000 kids are something."

The simplest way I'd explain that subject-verb agreement is to put the unessential stuff in parentheses. So "One (in ten kids) is something." It's just that the "ten kids" coming right before the verb throws everything off when you hear it.

So other examples would be:
"The kids (in the classroom) are being too loud." The classroom isn't loud.
"The first baseman (of the Phllies) is overpaid." The Phillies aren't overpaid (well...)
"The flies (in the soup) are doing the backstroke." The soup isn't doing the backstroke.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:31 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


"One kid isn't" sounds better, right? I agree that "One in ten kids isn't" is a klunky sentence, but sadly, I think it's correct.
posted by Gilbert at 12:33 AM on October 4, 2011


Actually, re-reading your question, it seems to be more about the logic of the statistical side of it, and not really the grammar or the "sound" of it. But still, I think everything I said in the first half still applies.

Another baseball example... I hit 1 homer in 10 at-bats. You hit 500 homers in 5000 at-bats. We both still hit 1 measly single homer for every set of 10 at-bats. It's just that in your case, the 1 homer represents a lot more than mine.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:38 AM on October 4, 2011


I'm a linguist. "One in ten kids is" follows the grammatical rules of standard English. "One in ten kids are" is probably equally likely to be what any given English speaker actually says. So in some sense you are both correct, but the style sheet of a publication is correct to require the singular.

English verbs inflect to match the formal number of their subject, not the semantic number. So you can strip the subject as bare as possible and test this "One is" vs "One are". Then it's clearer. An interesting phenomenon in English and other languages that work this way is that if there is any plural noun near the verb, no matter whether it is the subject or not, it makes speakers more likely to inflect the verb for plural. So e.g. "The boy who kissed the girls is tired" is likely to become "are" in casual speech for many people.
posted by lollusc at 12:44 AM on October 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


Oh, and as an example of formal vs semantic plural, many speakers will say "The government are" or "The team are" because these two nouns that refer to multiple people. But formal written English still requires singular for these.
posted by lollusc at 12:49 AM on October 4, 2011


"1 in 10 is" gets 497k ghits for me, "1 in 10 are" gets 259k. "is" is most common but both are widely used.

I have a feeling it may vary according to context, but can't quite put my finger on how.
posted by Segundus at 1:01 AM on October 4, 2011


lollusc: "Oh, and as an example of formal vs semantic plural, many speakers will say "The government are" or "The team are" because these two nouns that refer to multiple people. But formal written English still requires singular for these."

Only in North America.

I agree with your other point, 'one' is the subject here, but this is a difficult phrase to strip, and 'one' isn't really the subject, it's the main element of a noun phrase that is the subject, that's why it is harder to parse, and why yelling, "Rules, rules" (as someone else, not you, did) just never works in grammar.
posted by Webnym at 1:06 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and as an example of formal vs semantic plural, many speakers will say "The government are" or "The team are" because these two nouns that refer to multiple people. But formal written English still requires singular for these.

As far as casual English anyway, this seems like more of a US/UK preference, eg, "Apple is/are releasing a new iPhone."

This can also be seen when comparing American bands to British ones on Wikipedia. Nirvana/Velvet Underground "was," Led Zeppelin/Pink Floyd "were."

I do wonder if, as a result, those in the UK may be more inclined to think it should be "1 in 10 kids are" rather than "is."
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:09 AM on October 4, 2011


I searched the New York Times for the phrase "one in" to try to infer what their style guide might say. Of the first 20 results, nine had the phrase "one in N" as a predicate to a verb. The others were either not predicates (e.g.: "the 1990 census failed to count one in six Brooklynites") or weren't part of a "one in N" phrase (e.g.: "I found one in Pennsylvania"). Of the nine instances, seven were treated as singular and two as plural. Interestingly, the two plural instances were also the two instances regarding inanimate objects. Perhaps more research is necessary?

Here are the actual results (emphasis mine):

Belgium: One In 10 Tries Suicide, Survey Finds, Sept. 27, 2003
One in 10 Belgians has attempted suicide and nearly 20 percent say they have thought about killing themselves over the last 12 months
As Delinquencies Soar, One in 10 Mortgages Is a Month or More Late, Nov. 20, 2009
Nearly one in 10 homeowners with mortgages was at least one payment behind in the third quarter, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in its survey.
Metro Briefing New York: Study Shows One In Four Subway Phones Flawed, Feb. 11, 2004
About one in four pay telephones in the New York City subway and commuter rail system do not work properly
New Study Indicates One in 3 Tend To Get Risky Form of Cholesterol, Jan. 20, 1988
About one of every three Americans inherits a tendency to produce a form of cholesterol that appears to be linked with an unusually high risk of heart disease, research released today shows.
One In Five Report Hunger, Jan. 27, 2010
Nearly one in five Americans said they lacked the money to buy food at some point in the last year
One in 4 Afghan Ballots Face Check for Possible Fraud, Sept. 21, 2009
Nearly one in four votes in last month's Afghan presidential elections were cast at polling stations now subject to a recount and audit for possible fraud
One in Eight Adults in New York City Has Diabetes, a Study Finds, Jan. 31, 2007
One in eight adults in New York City has diabetes, and nearly twice as many appear to be developing it
One in Six Marketers Offers New Product, Aug. 18, 1983
One in every six marketing executives is now introducing new products or new product lines, according to a survey by Peterson Blyth Cato Associates
One in Four Girls, Mar. 17, 2008
One in four girls ages 14 to 19 is infected with at least one of four common diseases.
posted by mhum at 1:11 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Some more results from the New York Times, this time for the phrase "one out of": And, again with "one in every": It seems to me like the NYT favors the singular but will occasionally let a plural through.
posted by mhum at 1:32 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I do wonder if, as a result, those in the UK may be more inclined to think it should be "1 in 10 kids are" rather than "is."

this pedantic amateur linguist from the UK thinks (i.e. is sure) that the examples given above from the NYT are correct, and unfortunately I have to concede that "1 in 10 kids is _____" is correct too. but it doesn't gel well, so I probably would have written "10% of kids are ______" instead.
posted by alan2001 at 1:42 AM on October 4, 2011


and i should preview - I meant the first lot of results from the NYT. :p
posted by alan2001 at 1:43 AM on October 4, 2011


This is surely not that difficult? One in ten kids IS, etc... is the correct usage. The argument about sets is an incomplete argument, because it requires us to go on and compare that particular set with all the other sets with a particular kid in them. However, most such statements do not go on to talk about all the other sets, and discuss how the one kid is different in them, and so the statement is conceptually incomplete. Similarly, the argument about the "the English soccer team ARE..." depends on what the individual members of the team are doing: if the English team is affected by the loss of one of its members, then the whole team is affected in the same way, and it's singular. If the English team are affected by the loss of a member, then some are happy and some are sad. It's all in the context.
posted by alonsoquijano at 2:30 AM on October 4, 2011


The idea you're extrapolating from the sentence does, indeed, refer to millions of kids. The *word* "one" is plural, though, and that's what the verb needs to agree with.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 4:03 AM on October 4, 2011


It is grammatical. It is also bad writing.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:06 AM on October 4, 2011


(For curiosity, Spanish doesn't normally allow article-less nouns, so when you say it's one o'clock, that's singular. No other hour is.)
posted by LogicalDash at 4:09 AM on October 4, 2011


googling "one in ten kids are" yields 10,100 hits. Googling "one in ten kids is" yields 3,730.

I would prefer the plural myself, though either seems fine to me. I don't think you're going to establish a clear-cut winner here.
posted by deadweightloss at 5:30 AM on October 4, 2011


'Kids' is the subject, not 'one'. "One in ten" is the amount of kids. Which is obviously a lot.
posted by empath at 5:33 AM on October 4, 2011


I do wonder if, as a result, those in the UK may be more inclined to think it should be "1 in 10 kids are" rather than "is."

For this Brit, they are two separate phenomena. I'll happily and naturally say "Pink Floyd are" without thinking about it, but I'd most likely say "one in ten kids is X", I think, because I conceive statements like this as referring to a group of ten kids (implied: this scales up to several groups of ten kids), one of whom is X.

I don't think the plural is wrong, though; it just reflects a reading of the situation that is different from mine.
posted by altolinguistic at 5:43 AM on October 4, 2011


You seem to have plenty here to consider already, but I'll add my voice all the same. As a copyeditor, I'd agree that the headline is correct. You're (reasonably, and I'm sure accurately) assuming that the sample size is more than ten children, but the sentence itself does not explicitly state that this is the case. It's about one kid out of ten, regardless of what the intended/implied meaning is. That said, it's a clunky headline (as many headlines are).

I also concur that in everyday use, the plural verb would probably be quite common. Some day, that might even be considered correct usage. Language changes quickly, but style guides and grammar books—especially since us English types can sometimes be real sticks in the mud—don't.
posted by divisjm at 5:57 AM on October 4, 2011


Bean-plating. 1 in 10 kids (regardless of how many sets that would refer to in a different context, such as in the unstated-but-assumed percentage of the wider population) refers to a single child. It takes the singular form, and "isn't" is the correct verb to use.
posted by ellF at 6:10 AM on October 4, 2011


I think it's perfectly fine to write colloquially, in certain contexts, but critique as you will.

In further support of my argument, see page 779 of Garner's Modern American Usage (third edition), Subject–Verb Agreement, part K:
K.One in five, one of every five. When the first number is one, this construction takes a singular: one in three is not admitted, one of every five achieves a perfect score, etc. See one in [number] is.
The cross-reference provides more information and is on page 591, but it's long enough that I don't feel like typing it out here.
posted by divisjm at 6:13 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


we aren't talking about just a single kid. 1 in 10 kids is clearly talking about millions of kids, not one, and therefore the whole thing should be plural.

No, "one in ten kids" isn't talking about millions of kids. It's talking about ten kids. Like it says. If they were talking about "millions of kids," they'd SAY "millions of kids."

"one in ten kids is" is correct.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:28 AM on October 4, 2011


"2 out of ten kids" and "1 out of 5 kids" take different verbs, even though they refer to the same number of kids?
posted by empath at 6:30 AM on October 4, 2011


"One in ten kids is..." is technically correct. (The best kind of correct! Yes, I saw Rhaomi already made that joke.) But it sounds awfully awkward to this native US English speaker's ears.

I'd recast it as "One kid in ten is..." which is both correct and less awkward-sounding.

1 in 10 kids is clearly talking about millions of kids, not one, and therefore the whole thing should be plural.

I believe you are confusing grammar with logic.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:32 AM on October 4, 2011


"2 out of ten kids" and "1 out of 5 kids" take different verbs, even though they refer to the same number of kids?

Yes.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:34 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


"2 out of ten kids" and "1 out of 5 kids" take different verbs, even though they refer to the same number of kids?

Conceptually they refer to the same number of kids. Gramatically, they don't -- "two" is a different number than "one".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:37 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or to be precise, they don't refer to the same number of kids on a grammatical level. On a grammatical level, "2 out of ten kids" refers to 2 kids, and "1 out of 5 kids" refers to 1 kid. On a deeper semantic level, they refer to the same number of kids, but grammar doesn't care about that.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:38 AM on October 4, 2011


At least, American English grammar doesn't. At least one person above pointed out that British English tends to treat some nouns differently than American English does (i.e., if a singular noun refers to something that is conceptually plural [e.g., a band with multiple members, or some other type of group]), a plural verb is used. I'm not certain whether that's always the case in British English, but it does seem to happen quite a bit.

Of course, CNN is an American publication, so they've rightly followed American English standards.
posted by divisjm at 6:41 AM on October 4, 2011


Erg... please ignore my inability to put parentheses in the correct location.
posted by divisjm at 6:42 AM on October 4, 2011


I keep seeing the assertion that "one" is the syntactic head of the phrase "one in ten children." Why is this an appealing analysis?

Consider:
  1. "One out of ten children is/are malnourished."
  2. "Out of ten children, one is/are malnourished."
If the head was "children" rather than "one," you couldn't do this inversion.
posted by Nomyte at 8:00 AM on October 4, 2011


Scratch that, reverse it.
posted by Nomyte at 8:02 AM on October 4, 2011


'Kids' is the subject, not 'one'.

With all due respect, you are incorrect.

"Kids" is the object of the prepositional phrase, "in ten kids." "One" is the subject of the sentence; hence "is" is the correct form of the verb.
posted by Rash at 8:17 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


It seems to me CNN did not use the proper words to express what they meant to say. Had they done so, I don't think you'd have a disagreement. CNN should have said one in every 10 children are __. Adding the word "every" signifies a multiple of the set of 10, and a subject of at least 2 (count out 10 children, count out 10 more children, then pick out 1 child from each group of 10 kids. These two children are ___.).

Of course, as the descriptivists above have noted, "one in 10" is commonly used to express the wordier idea of "one in every 10," and it may be simply idiom now to use the former with a plural verb, with this idomatic phrasing mooting the grammar questions of singular v. plural noun and proper noun-verb agreement.
posted by hhc5 at 8:32 AM on October 4, 2011


One blah blah blah blah blah is ________. The rest of the sentence is noise.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:35 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Blah blah blah kids isn't ______.
posted by RobotHero at 8:54 AM on October 4, 2011


For those of you having trouble wrapping your heads around the idea that different phrases which refer to the same thing can take different verbs, consider the following:

Twenty-eight ducks arise from the lake.
A flock of twenty-eight ducks arises from the lake.

CNN should have said one in every 10 children are __.

No, they shouldn't. The "every" doesn't change anything.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:01 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


"2 out of ten kids" and "1 out of 5 kids" take different verbs, even though they refer to the same number of kids?

I was told there was going to be no math.

CNN should have said one in every 10 children are __. Adding the word "every" signifies a multiple of the set of 10, and a subject of at least 2

Nope. Put as many words as you want between the subject and the verb, you're still going to have one child [who] is "___".
posted by rhizome at 9:53 AM on October 4, 2011


Given that there are many native speakers weighing in on both sides, I will assume that both are, in fact, used, and therefore correct.

But this "we aren't talking about just a single kid. 1 in 10 kids is clearly talking about millions of kids, not one", and other explanations based on how logically the phrase actually refers to many kids and should therefore demand a plural verb ignores the fact that grammar has its own logic which can diverge from our making-sense-of-the-world logic. For instance, all these sentences refer to a logical plural, but take singular verbs:

"Every man on earth has a liver" rather than "Every man on earth have a liver". Even though it says that billions of people have livers.

"Every cat has a tail, except for those who don't"

"Every man who is here tonight is bald". Clearly, the very same idea can be expressed differently, to more closely reflect the fact that we are talking about plural men, for instance "All men who are here tonight are bald".

Grammar doesn't always bow to logic. But logic can be one of the things that impacts grammar -for instance, if enough native speakers use logic when trying to recall a less used phrase, that phrase can change or gain an alternative form - as might be the case with the phrase in the post.
posted by miorita at 11:02 AM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've been thinking about this a bit more, especially in light of similar issues relating to collective nouns (team, government, country names, etc). Many years ago, I was taught that British English allows for both singular and plural subject-predicate agreement for collective nouns, depending on whether you wanted to stress the group as an entity or as being composed of individuals. For instance, you might say "Arsenal is an English football club", versus "Arsenal have been palying really well these last ten minutes". (See also this Wikipedia article on British and American use of collective nouns). At the time, I found it really cool that English accommodated such subtle nuances. Imagine the rhetorical possibilities in this very discreet shift between plural and singular, teh subliminal messages that can be sent! But we were also told that both constructions being regarded as correct was a relatively recent development (so use was actually quite fluid still - there are enough people who might say "Arsenal is an English bla bla" at times, whilst going for "Arsenal are an English bla bla" at other times. Still, on the whole a focus on group versus focus on individuals in that group seems to be influencing use.), and that it was an example of how extra-linguistic considerations lead to language change.

What I find really exciting reading this thread is that the "one in x is/are" debate seems to indicate a similar impact of extra-linguistic situational analysis on formal phrase construction. Personally, I'd love it if English could have this added layer of subtlety in a tiny area of usage where you could discriminate between neutral language use (singular) and language with emotional overtones (plural). Leaving "correctness" aside for a while (which tends to be a non-negligeable reactionary force when it comes to language change), this:

" I conceive statements like this as referring to a group of ten kids (implied: this scales up to several groups of ten kids), one of whom is X"

is a possible (future) explanation for singular use, whilst plural verbs could come to be used in order to add an emotional layer to the statement. As it says in the post, the plural highlights the fact that "1 in 10 kids is clearly talking about millions of kids" - a much more hefty impact than the more uninvolved, statistically minded singular. Contrast "One in five villagers has been declared missing during the recent floods" versus "One in five villagers have been declared missing during the recent floods". Interestingly, I think something similar is happening in otehr languages as we speak.

This pattern of re-analysing linguistic material is not new, either. This is not about syntactic constructions, and it works with loanwords rather than with alternatives spontaneously arising, but I really like the way English has such pairs as "sheep" and "mutton", the latter apparently introduced in the Middle Ages from the French, where it meant "sheep" - so English managed to retaine both the point of view of the master and that of the servant by re-attributing strands of meaning. Same with "calf" and "veal". It would be wonderful if someone who knows more about historical linguistics could give us some examples that are closer to the construction discussed in the post, to illustrate this wonderful capacity of language to adapt and enrich itself by creating and integrating newness from a number of sources.
posted by miorita at 12:16 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks guys. I think what convinced me is this example: "One kid in ten." I'd impulsively use the singular verb there, which probably means I'm just being confused by the kids after all.

To those making sample size arguments: I find you very unconvincing. There is exactly one sample size (10) where we are talking about a single kid. But there are infinitely many sample sizes (anything > 20) where we are talking about more than one kid. So if we were following this logic, I'd still argue for the more general or common case.

Also, if we had 100 kids in a room and divided them into groups of 10 we are absolutely not guaranteed that one kid in each group with be X. We could have 9 groups with no kids having X and one group with 10 kids having X. The only way we could say "1 in 10" out of a sample of 100 is if 10 out of that 100 are X.

But I'm admitting to your grammatical conclusion for different reasons, so now we're just arguing math :)
posted by sbutler at 3:13 PM on October 4, 2011


Also, if we had 100 kids in a room and divided them into groups of 10 we are absolutely not guaranteed that one kid in each group with be X. We could have 9 groups with no kids having X and one group with 10 kids having X. The only way we could say "1 in 10" out of a sample of 100 is if 10 out of that 100 are X.

STATISTICALLY, you'd be correct. But GRAMMATICALLY, you are talking about a single child out of a group of ten. That child IS something.

Okay -- the best rule of thumb I've heard it comes to tense agreement is that you take away the qualifier and see what verb you'd use. So for "one child in ten is/are", you'd take away the "in ten". So then you have a choice between "one child IS" or "one child ARE".

"One child IS" is correct in that instance. So that's how you know it's "one child in ten IS".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:51 PM on October 4, 2011


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