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For example, thousands have tried to conquer Mount Everest. Of those who make the attempt, only one in seven make it to the top.

In the second sentence, why the verb 'make' isn't 'makes'?

It seems that subject is 'only one',which is singular.

  1. Did I misunderstand the whole sentence?

  2. If there are exception for this, what else would be?

The whole paragraph is here.

Anything worth having takes time. “What we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly,” Thomas Paine wrote. But in addition to hard work and the occasional long wait or detour through the wilderness, a key ingredient is vision. For example, thousands have tried to conquer Mount Everest. Of those who make the attempt, only one in seven make it to the top. One of the greatest factors in success versus failure is the climbers’ ability to see where they are headed. When storms blow in and obscure the top of the mountain, the climbers grow discouraged and despondent and consider retreat. But when storm air clears and the climbers see the peak again, the journey becomes easier, commitment renews, and faith is strengthened. Suddenly, getting there feels possible.

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    Please, cite your source. – Michael Rybkin Sep 22 '18 at 9:34
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    Thank you for editing my question. It is much more accurate question that I wanted to ask. Unfortunately, it is from one of Korean English learning materials. So, I googled part of it so that I can find where the whole paragraph came from and nothing came out. Stil, I'm attaching the whole paragraph in question. – SinyongKim Sep 22 '18 at 9:50
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The actual subject of the second sentence is not clear because something has been omitted by ellipsis. Depending on what is omitted, we can use either make or makes.

... only one [climber] in seven makes it to the top.
... only one in seven [of those who make the attempt] make it to the top.

For the writer, the second version is the way that they intended the sentence to be understood, and for most readers the use of the plural form of the verb gives a clear indication of what's missing.

To provide a numerical example, the actual number of people that have attempted to climb Everest is more than 30,000. Only one in seven of those- but still nearly 5,000 people- succeeded. The implied subject of this sentence is those 5,000 people, so the plural form of the verb make is required.

You could also use the singular of the verb if the implied subject of the sentence is exactly one, for example

Of the days of the week, one in seven is a Sunday

There are exactly seven days in a week, so one in seven of them is one... so the verb is is singular.

  • Or you could say, For every seven climbers who attempt it, only one of them will make it. (Which, because of tense, is a singular form of the verb despite having a singular subject.) That would neatly bypass the issue. – Jason Bassford Sep 22 '18 at 14:17
  • @JasonBassford "a singular form of the verb despite having a singular subject"??? There is no despite about using a singular form for a singular subject. Though **will make ** is invariable- the tense is the same for singular and plural. However, it doesn't answer the OP's question, which is "Why is the verb plural?" – JavaLatte Sep 22 '18 at 14:25
  • Yes. Despite in the context of this conversation, where you're talking about a plural form of the verb for a singular subject and a singular form of the verb for a plural subject. The future tense avoids that because it always take a singular form. Your answer is correct, I was merely providing commentary on a construction where the problem becomes a non-issue. – Jason Bassford Sep 22 '18 at 14:27
  • why is one in seven of those is more than one? The action make was performed by a single entity (it was among seven). – renakre Sep 22 '18 at 15:12
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    @renakre The article is not talking about seven people who attempted to climb Everest and only one of them succeeded, According to the article, thousands of people have attempted to climb Everest (actual figure is over 30,000) and one in seven of those people (over 4,000 climbers) were successful. We are talking about those 4,000+ people, so we use a plural form of the verb. – JavaLatte Sep 22 '18 at 15:28
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Because it is plural.

"one in seven" is not a designation of one specific human who has ever succeeded in a climb (and thus being a singular).

"one in seven" is instead a fraction of "group of people" - meaning 1/7 * x, or x/7 (where x is total amount of people (note: plural) that had ever attempted to climb Mount Everest.

So, if there have been (let's say) 1000 people attempting the climb, "one in seven" actually means about 142 people, which is obviously a plural.

In other words, subject is not "only one" but instead "(only) one in seven", which you can rephrase as "(only) 14% of all people (that attempt to conquer Mount Everest)"

As to your second question: "only" before "one" does not mean there was "only one" man that have ever succeeded in climbing Mount Everest, instead it means to convey that fraction 1/7 is very small (similar as you might say "I have only $15 in my wallet" when attempting to buy something that costs more than that).

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    The way you used numbers to explain this thing was the best. This concept is now permanently etched in my brain. – lea Sep 22 '18 at 22:23
  • @JavaLatte are we going to apply the same logic here in "one in a hundred / one in thousands". Only one in a thousand make it to the top. – lea Sep 23 '18 at 10:05
  • That's not how the grammar works. This is about verb agreement. The head of the NP is the plural "seven", so simple agreement dictates that the verb should also be plural, though as I said in my answer, singular override is also possible. – BillJ Sep 23 '18 at 14:22
  • @JavaLatte thanks, corrected to "one in seven" – Matija Nalis Sep 24 '18 at 19:21
  • How about correcting your answer as well? You've totally ignored the verb agreement rules that say a verb should agree with the head of the subject. The head of the subject NP is the plural "seven" and this is why the default verb is the plural "are". And this is not about fractions; it's called a proportional construction. – BillJ Sep 25 '18 at 7:36
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For example, thousands have tried to conquer Mount Everest. Of those who make the attempt, [only one in seven make/makes it to the top].

The head of the bracketed noun phrase is the plural "seven", so the plural verb "make" follows the simple agreement rule.

However, the verb can be singular as well as plural, where the singular override is clearly motivated by the presence of singular "one".

Addition: Javalatte asks in comments about this example:

Of the days of the week, one in seven is / are a Sunday.

The analysis of "one in seven" is the same as your Mount Everest example. As before, the DP "one in seven" is a fused determiner-head rather than simply a determiner. The fact that these are fused-head construction doesn't seem to make much difference in principle to the verb-agreement possibilities.

The preference for the singular in this example must be motivated by the singular predicative complement, "a Sunday". The override is still in principle an optional one: that is, I wouldn't want to say that "are" is impossible here.

Compare:

Of the days of the week, one in seven are Sundays.

Here, the predicative complement is the plural "Sundays" and singular "is" would be impossible, so clearly it is the complement that motivates the verb-form: "is a Sunday" / "are Sundays.

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    I am not convinced that seven is the subject of the sentence. one in seven is a fraction, and you need to look at what it's a fraction of. – JavaLatte Sep 22 '18 at 11:16
  • "One in seven" is a DP with the PP "in seven" as post head modifier. "Seven" is a fused deteminer-head where it is simultaneous head and determiner in the NP: we understand it as "one in seven x", where the head is x, and since "seven x" can only be plural, the verb too should be plural. But as I said, singular override is certainly possible and not ungrammatical. – BillJ Sep 22 '18 at 12:06
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    ,,so you would say "Of the days of the week, one in seven are a sunday"? – JavaLatte Sep 22 '18 at 12:22
  • Do you see any reason for the verb agreement in "one in seven (days)" to differ from "one in seven (climbers)"? – BillJ Sep 22 '18 at 13:38
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    Yes. Last time I checked, there were seven days in a week, so one in seven days of the week is one. There are thousands of climbers, so one in seven is quite a lot. As you point out, it's the implied "days" or "climbers" that's the subject, not the seven. – JavaLatte Sep 22 '18 at 14:11

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