When it comes to subject-verb agreement, most of us focus on the basics like making sure the verb matches the subject in number and person. However, there are other factors that can come into play, such as when the subject involves a fraction.

Fractions are a tricky subject because they can operate as both singular and plural subjects. Depending on the context, you may need to change the verb to match the subject’s intended meaning. Here are some general guidelines to follow when dealing with subject-verb agreement of fractions.

1. Fractions as Singular Subjects

When the fraction is one unit, it is considered a singular subject and requires a singular verb. For example, “One-fourth of the pie is missing.” In this case, “is” is the correct verb because “one-fourth” is a singular subject.

2. Fractions as Plural Subjects

When the fraction is more than one unit, it is considered a plural subject and requires a plural verb. For example, “Three-fourths of the students are absent.” In this case, “are” is the correct verb because “three-fourths” is a plural subject.

3. Fractions with Collective Nouns

When fractions are used with collective nouns like “group,” “team,” or “class,” the verb should match the meaning of the noun. For example, “One-third of the class is absent” (singular) versus “Two-thirds of the class are absent” (plural).

4. Fractions with Compound Subjects

When fractions are used with compound subjects, the verb should match the closest subject. For example, “One-third of the cake and two-thirds of the cookies were eaten” (plural) versus “Two-thirds of the cake and one-third of the cookies was eaten” (singular).

5. Fractions with Adjectives

When fractions are used with adjectives that describe the subject, the verb should match the subject, not the adjective. For example, “Three-fourths of the elderly population is retired” (singular) versus “Three-fourths of the elderly people are retired” (plural).

In conclusion, subject-verb agreement of fractions requires some additional attention to ensure proper grammar and meaning. As a copy editor, it is essential to understand these guidelines and apply them appropriately in your work. By following these guidelines, you can help ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and grammatically correct.

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