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GrammarGasm


pwaa
Dec. 14th, 2010 10:59 am Is or are?

"Only about one in four doctors, mostly in large group practices, is using
the electronic record system." [from Panel Set to Study Safety of
Electronic Patient Data]

This is a quote from the New York Times. The argument is whether "about one in four doctors," which refers to approximately a quarter of all doctors, is plural or singular. Opinions?

11 comments - Leave a commentPrevious Entry Share Flag Next Entry

Comments:

From:sinboy
Date:December 14th, 2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
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This is still a case of "One quarter are using" versus "one in four is using".
From:patrickwonders
Date:December 14th, 2010 08:28 pm (UTC)
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I'm of the opinion that "is" is appropriate here. The phrase "one in four" while really meaning "1/4th of all doctors" is expressing it as if there were four representative doctors, one of which is the subject of the sentence.
From:e_musings
Date:December 14th, 2010 08:57 pm (UTC)
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That's how I see it, too.
From:ms_0
Date:December 15th, 2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
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Notice it says "about one in four". So perhaps it's .98 or 1.02, which presumably would be considered plural. Anyway, why isn't the subject of the sentence "doctors"? It doesn't say "one doctor in four".
From:patrickwonders
Date:December 15th, 2010 05:45 pm (UTC)
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True, but to me "about one in four doctors" is shorthand for "about one doctor in four doctors," and I would never consider saying "about one doctors in four doctors."
From:patrickwonders
Date:December 15th, 2010 05:48 pm (UTC)
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And, doctors isn't the subject because it is not doctors or four doctors using the electronic records system. It is about one doctor using it.
From:ms_0
Date:December 17th, 2010 07:27 pm (UTC)
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Nonsense. It's about many doctors using the ERS. You won't find as few as one, or even four doctors in a large group practice. In terms of semantics, "one in four" is equivalent to "25% of" or "one quarter of", or even "two eighths of". But for amusement, I tried http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/ comparing the phrases "one in four is" to "one in four are", and "is" is more than twice as frequent.
From:thetragicreturn
Date:December 14th, 2010 09:28 pm (UTC)
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"[O]ne doctor...is using the...system."

And that doctor happens to be one in four. That's my view.
From:balmofgilead
Date:December 15th, 2010 12:59 am (UTC)
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That's what I was going to say.

Also, from a smartass point of view, we don't know how many doctors there are in the world (and know that is not really part of grammar.) There could very well be just four of them.
From:balmofgilead
Date:December 15th, 2010 12:59 am (UTC)
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*knowing that is not really part of grammar
From:thetragicreturn
Date:December 15th, 2010 01:10 am (UTC)
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That's a really cool concept. Thanks for sharing that. :D