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Reference: The Copyeditors Handbook, SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT, rule-9, page 343

According to the rule, following would be correct;

One-third of the six members were women.

Two-fifths of my wages go to taxes.

Three-fourths of the town was destroyed by the typhoon.

Does the rule always hold, or are there any exceptions to the rule?

  • 1
    your examples sound correct (lol, am allowed to answer, but not enough reputation to comment...) Feb 11, 2019 at 7:35
  • 1
    The exception is where the noun is a collective, in which case both singular and plural verbs are possible: one tenth of the electorate take/takes drugs.
    – BillJ
    Feb 11, 2019 at 8:57
  • @BillJ Wow! Right, didn't think of that.. agreed! ^^ Feb 11, 2019 at 9:51
  • FRACTION of NOUN agrees with VERB, if NOUN agrees with VERB? ^^ Feb 11, 2019 at 9:54

1 Answer 1


One third of the members were women.

Two fifths of my wages go in taxes.

Three quarters of the town was destroyed by the typhoon.

Fractions like these are best analysed as noun phrases taking a of complement. They belong with the number-transparent nouns, where the number of the whole noun phrase is determined by the number of the noun that is complement to the preposition "of", as your examples demonstrate.

The only exception I'm aware of is where the noun that is complement to of is a collective, in which case singular agreement can optionally be overridden:

One tenth of the electorate take / takes drugs.

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