I have a sentence that goes like

A large proportion of people _______ started giving up on the government.

I know here the missing word—has or have—has got to refer to proportion and not people. So the right word would be has.

But MS Word prompts up, saying have is right.

  • Sentence is fine without the blank.
    – lurker
    Dec 4, 2015 at 5:00
  • @lurker Sounds right too. But in my case, it has to be present perfect.
    – Caroffrey
    Dec 4, 2015 at 5:08
  • 1
    Surprisingly, Word is actually correct here. I know, I'm as shocked as you. Dec 4, 2015 at 17:38

2 Answers 2


Proportion is singular, so have is correct.

Edit: Wait, shoot, that's not right at all. Have is definitely correct...

I think what happens is that a proportion of a plural is still a plural. There's a certain amount of people in a proportion of people.

Sorry for jumping the gun.

Edit 2: To test, a proportion of a cheese wheel is singular, but a proportion of cheese wheels are not. Yes, this works.

  • 1
    Yeah, the logic pushes past all those pesky words in the language and relies on the meanings. And it's consistent with what's correct, so... shrug Dec 4, 2015 at 5:34
  • 2
    Wait, shoot, I just looked at my edit: "a proportion of cheese wheels are"... screw it, why do I even speak this language. It's singular for article agreement, and plural for verb agreement, what the hell. Dec 4, 2015 at 5:36

The technically correct sentence would be:

A large number of people has started to give up on the government.

The naturally correct sentence is:

A large number of people have started to give up on the government.

There's absolutely nothing anybody can do about that. It's just how things are. Certain things just defy the rules, as is their wont. So you should just take that leap of faith, and go with the second one, and never look back.

  • 4
    "Technically correct" here appears to mean "obeys an oversimplified set of rules which make incorrect predictions and are therefore wrong". If you consult a grammar, say, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language starting on page 349, you might find that there are grammatical rules which accurately describe the language and come to the realization that the latter is technically correct.
    – user230
    Dec 4, 2015 at 7:41
  • 1
    @snailboat: You'll recall 2 Corinthians: "not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." It is the language, and not the grammar book, that takes precedence, as the poet said. The language changes, and then, some time later, the grammar book adjusts, hopefully. It invariably lags behind. A child of six, ignorant of gerunds, the past participle, verbs, nouns, and the predicate, will nevertheless speak perfectly. The important thing is to be in tune with the music. Then, and only then, can you begin to tabulate it.
    – Ricky
    Dec 4, 2015 at 9:24
  • @snailboat I agree; I consider 'technically' often to be one of the 'idle (weasel) words' a certain book talks about. I'm fairly sure CGEL has/have responsibly sampled actual usage to see what proficient Anglophones actually say, and then state that that's the accepted way (or those are the accepted ways). I'm not even going to guess at 'natural rules'. // Google searches show n("A large proportion of people have") : n("A large proportion of people has") = 941 000 : 4. Sep 18, 2019 at 16:03
  • @EdwinAshworth: Ah, yes: Google trumps both technical and natural. Oh joy. What was I thinking.
    – Ricky
    Sep 18, 2019 at 19:20
  • @Ricky Google certainly trumps the individual. And you have to be pretty sure that you've got some decent ammunition before you challenge CGEL. Sep 18, 2019 at 19:21

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