Which do you think is correct and why?

1) How many do 1% of the students come to?

2) How much do 1% of the students come to?

3) How many does 1% of the students come to?

  • 2
    All of them sound somewhere between awkward and wrong to me. If i had to choose, though? 3.
    – cHao
    Oct 4 '14 at 23:05
  • How would you rephrase the thought?
    – user1425
    Oct 5 '14 at 3:47
  • 1
    Honestly, i'm not sure. Any wording i can come up with, i don't particularly like. All i know is, "How many do..." is ambiguous at best -- one could easily ask that and mean "how many football games", for example. And "how much" is asking for a measure, not a quantity -- it'd be more appropriate for mass nouns (stuff that can't really be counted, like water or data).
    – cHao
    Oct 5 '14 at 5:03
  • 1
    It almost feels like the question might be asking too much. Absent a reason to specifically ask for the number of students that 1% represents (like a word problem about student attendance, for example), I'd probably just ask "How many students are there?" and divide the answer by 100 myself.
    – cHao
    Oct 5 '14 at 5:33
  • 1
    Then ask for both. You: "What percentage of the students did so-and-so?" Them: "10%" You: "And how many students is that?". Course, you'll look a bit less than competent if you have to ask for numbers and percentages every time. You'd do better to ask for the relevant numbers and crunch them yourself...particularly if your job's on the line. :)
    – cHao
    Oct 5 '14 at 6:07

I'm with @cHao, none really sound great, but three sounds the best.

I think do is just wrong for that. You're looking for a certain property (the count) of a singular object (1% of the students), so you want to use the conjugation of "to do" that matches that.

Realistically, though, if I were trying to express the thought, I'd probably say something more like one of these. Admittedly, I don't love any of these either, and they could be considered objectively ambiguous (read: they'd make more sense to native speakers).

  • What's 1% of the student population?
  • How many students make up 1% of the population?
  • How many is 1% of the students?

Of course, if this were in the context, of, say, a conversation, I could imagine it going something like this:

Person 1: 1% of the students were late to class three days last week
Person 2: How many is that?

Where "that" is implicitly defined as "1% of the students." That makes it sound a lot less awkward, although of course it also only works when in a conversation.

Similarly, if you were writing a--random example--news article, you could use a similar device.

1% of students were late to class three days last week. That's 60 students.

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