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  • 20% of the students are/is present.
  • The remaining 20% of the protein form/forms enzymes.

Singular verb or plural — which one is correct?

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When we are looking at a sentence with words that indicate portions (percent in your example, also: fraction, some...), to choose the correct subject-verb agreement, we simply have to look at the noun after "of".

In the first case, the noun is "students" - a countable noun and it is in plural, therefore the verb should be in plural as well:

20% of the students are present

Even if there are 100 students, and you want to infer 1%, you still use plural:

1% of 100 students are present

In the second case, the noun is "protein" - countable noun in singular, the verb is singular as well:

The remaining 20% of the protein forms enzymes

  • What if it was 1% of the sudents? – Lucian Sava Jun 20 '14 at 9:42
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    Still the same, a plural is needed. Even if there were 100 students, and we knew that 1% is only one student :) – Vilmar Jun 20 '14 at 10:20
  • @Vilmar so much the better if you embedded your comment – learner Oct 24 '14 at 12:37
  • @Vilmar does this still work with "100% of 1 student"? – Ooker Dec 21 '14 at 20:07
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    @Ooker A rare thing to be seen in regular speech (unless we are talking about parts of the student or really formal statistics) :) In this case student is singular, so yeah, one would say "100% of 1 student is present at the exam". – Vilmar Dec 22 '14 at 8:15

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