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For the following sentence, I am not able to understand whether the singular form of the plural form of the nouns "percentage" and "population" is correct.

  • The bar chart below gives information about the percentage of the population living in urban areas in the world and in different continents.
  • The bar chart below gives information about the percentages of the population living in urban areas in the world and in different continents.
  • The bar chart below gives information about the percentage of the populations living in urban areas in the world and in different continents.
  • The bar chart below gives information about the percentages of the populations living in urban areas in the world and in different continents.
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  • It is impossible to answer correctly without seeing the graph and what it shows. Or at least getting a very good explanation of what is shown.
    – Catija
    Aug 17, 2015 at 6:03

4 Answers 4

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You should use:

The bar chart below gives information about (the) percentages of the population living in urban areas in the world and in different continents.

population is a mass noun (referring to a group of people), so singular is used.

In the case of one set of population data, you could use percentage, but since you are referring to several, you should use percentages.

Also I don't think (the) above is necessary, but gramatically I can't say for sure. To me it dounds better without.

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  • Or maybe it could do without "information about", if the chart simply shows the various percentages. May 18, 2015 at 9:07
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You should use this:

The bar chart below gives information about the percentages of the populations living in urban areas in the world and in different continents.

Explanation:

Definition of population by Dictionary.com:

the total number of persons inhabiting a country, city, or any district or area.

The chart shows different numbers of people living in different regions of the world. So, "population" should be plural unless the chart shows (one) population of people living in urban areas on our earth only.

As for percentages, I believe there are many regions (i.e. urban areas, continents). Therefore, some percentages may represent one population only.

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  • Add-on: After much consideration, I don't think a fixed answer is available since it's depending on the graph whether it'd show 1 population of the people living on our earth or multiple by regions. Also, I also don't know whether each population has multiple percentages or not as the graph was my logic imagination from your sentence.
    – XPMai
    Apr 18, 2015 at 4:31
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I infer from these sentences that there is one percentage for the whole world and one for each of at least two continents. If so, there are multiple percentages and so you should say percentages.

What isn't stated is whether the percentage figure for each continent is a percentage of the world's population, or a percentage of the population of that continent.

If all figures are a percentage of the world's population, there is just one population, so you should say population. If each continent's figure is a percentage of that continent's population, there are multiple populations and so you should say populations.

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All existing answers seem to be preoccupied with the idea that it makes a difference how many "percentages" and "populations" are being referenced, but that's not really the issue. Because "percentage of the population living in urban areas" is a somewhat long and unwieldy noun phrase, let's substitute something simpler - number of people:

1: The chart shows the number of people in the world and in different continents.

But the basic phrasing there is clumsy, so let's make some minimal changes to clarify things...

2: The chart shows the total number of people in the whole world, and in each different continent.

The same logical arguments apply to singular/plural number in my example as OP's percentage, but at least now it's easier to see that the singular version can be understood to involve elision/deletion...

3: The chart shows the total number of people in the whole world, and the number of people in each different continent. (the "fully expanded" version of #2 above)

Although it's effectively a stylistic choice whether to pluralize number in #2, I personally would almost always go for the singular in contexts like that. Consider an even simpler case...

This chart shows the price of electricity in Britain and other OECD countries.

Pragmatically, we're not likely to be looking at a chart with only one (average?) price, but I suggest no competent writer would be likely to pluralize prices there.


TL;DR: There's no actual need to pluralize percentage or population in OP's context. Grammatically speaking you could, but stylistically that would be a bad choice for both nouns.

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