Someone linked an article that starts with:

Steve Wynn is one out of every 4000 people who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that causes both night blindness as well as weakness of peripheral vision, a condition that is having a gradual effect on his eyesight.

This confused me initially because my brain is dead set on parsing this as something like "there is 1 Steve Wynn per 4000 people with the disease". Perhaps I am unknowingly applying certain grammatical concepts from my native language as universal.

When I think about this, clearly the author wanted to say:

  • 1 in 4000 people suffer from the disease

  • Steve suffers from the disease

Instinctively, I would make the following "correction":

Steve Wynn is one of the one out of every 4000 people who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa

But that looks terrible. Am I simply parsing the original sentence incorrectly, and if not, what would a native speaker say?

  • 2
    out of is frequently used this way, e.g., 7 out of 10; 42 out of 100 workers; 50 cents out of a dollar, etc. Now, out of every N people is a bit more complicated, and I think it's better explained in an answer. – Damkerng T. Apr 9 '16 at 9:33
  • I think I understand that. I will try to clarify. Let's say the sentence says "flatulence problems are experienced by one out of every 4000 people who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa". I parse this as 1/4000 being the frequency of flatulence problems among the ill, not the frequency of the illness in general. But I am not sure which is correct, and I am also not sure if replacing farting with Steve changes anything. – dumbass Apr 9 '16 at 10:08
  • Actually, now that I think about it, the flatulence version I am able to read both ways (1 out of 4000 ill farts, or 1 out of 4000 is ill and they all fart). But with the "Steve" version that's not the case, my brain absolutely rejects the original sentence in its intended meaning. Now I'm even more confused. – dumbass Apr 9 '16 at 10:12

The way I would say this is "Steve Wynn is the one out of every 4000 people who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa".

It's a bit strange logically, but I think it is idiomatic.

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  • @Mia no, I understand what it implies, I even included this in the question. I am in fact looking for answers like this one. I also wouldn't mind an explanation of the syntax of the original phrasing. – dumbass Apr 9 '16 at 11:39
  • @ColinFine interesting, this phrasing is familiar and sounds fine to me, yet it is something I would have never thought of on my own! – dumbass Apr 9 '16 at 11:49

What it tries to say is simply this:

Etinitis pigmentosa affects 1 in 4000 people,making it much more rare,but unfortunately Steve is one of those who suffer from this disease.

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  • "but, unfortunatel" is adding in something that is not there in the original sentence. – Colin Fine Apr 9 '16 at 11:23

I would write it this way:

One out of every 4000 people suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, and Steve Wynn is one of them/in that group*.

them or group refers to the 1/4000 of the population.

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