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Tip 4: Fractions in Sentences

How do you choose the correct word in a sentence that has a fraction as its subject?

Fractions such as one-half and one-third may be singular or plural, depending on the word to which the fraction refers.

How do I decide?

When the subject is a fraction, amount of money, measurement, weight, volume, or interval of time, use a singular verb when referring to a single unit (one half of the cake is gone) and a plural verb when referring to the number of separate units (one half of the team members are absent).

Examples:

Half of the mail (has, have) been opened.
Answer: Half of the mail has been opened.

Half of the letters (has, have) been opened.
Answer: Half of the letters have been opened.

Two-thirds of his hair (is, are) gone.
Answer: Two-thirds of his hair is gone.

Note: this rule is an exception to subject-verb agreement rules: normally, we do not make a word inside a prepositional phrase agree with the verb!