"only one in seven make it" instead of "makes" -- why?



For example, thousands have tried to conquer Mount Everest. Of those who make the attempt, only one in seven make it to the top.

In the second sentence, why the verb 'make' isn't 'makes'?

It seems that subject is 'only one',which is singular.

  1. Did I misunderstand the whole sentence?

  2. If there are exception for this, what else would be?

The whole paragraph is here.

Anything worth having takes time. “What we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly,” Thomas Paine wrote. But in addition to hard work and the occasional long wait or detour through the wilderness, a key ingredient is vision. For example, thousands have tried to conquer Mount Everest. Of those who make the attempt, only one in seven make it to the top. One of the greatest factors in success versus failure is the climbers’ ability to see where they are headed. When storms blow in and obscure the top of the mountain, the climbers grow discouraged and despondent and consider retreat. But when storm air clears and the climbers see the peak again, the journey becomes easier, commitment renews, and faith is strengthened. Suddenly, getting there feels possible.


Posted 2018-09-22T09:17:24.600

Reputation: 141

2Please, cite your source. – Michael Rybkin – 2018-09-22T09:34:14.820

1Thank you for editing my question. It is much more accurate question that I wanted to ask. Unfortunately, it is from one of Korean English learning materials. So, I googled part of it so that I can find where the whole paragraph came from and nothing came out. Stil, I'm attaching the whole paragraph in question. – SinyongKim – 2018-09-22T09:50:40.423



The actual subject of the second sentence is not clear because something has been omitted by ellipsis. Depending on what is omitted, we can use either make or makes.

... only one [climber] in seven makes it to the top.
... only one in seven [of those who make the attempt] make it to the top.

For the writer, the second version is the way that they intended the sentence to be understood, and for most readers the use of the plural form of the verb gives a clear indication of what's missing.

To provide a numerical example, the actual number of people that have attempted to climb Everest is more than 30,000. Only one in seven of those- but still nearly 5,000 people- succeeded. The implied subject of this sentence is those 5,000 people, so the plural form of the verb make is required.

You could also use the singular of the verb if the implied subject of the sentence is exactly one, for example

Of the days of the week, one in seven is a Sunday

There are exactly seven days in a week, so one in seven of them is one... so the verb is is singular.


Posted 2018-09-22T09:17:24.600

Reputation: 43 538

Or you could say, For every seven climbers who attempt it, only one of them *will* make it. (Which, because of tense, is a singular form of the verb despite having a singular subject.) That would neatly bypass the issue. – Jason Bassford – 2018-09-22T14:17:29.660

@JasonBassford "a singular form of the verb despite having a singular subject"??? There is no despite about using a singular form for a singular subject. Though **will make ** is invariable- the tense is the same for singular and plural. However, it doesn't answer the OP's question, which is "Why is the verb plural?" – JavaLatte – 2018-09-22T14:25:45.383

Yes. Despite in the context of this conversation, where you're talking about a plural form of the verb for a singular subject and a singular form of the verb for a plural subject. The future tense avoids that because it always take a singular form. Your answer is correct, I was merely providing commentary on a construction where the problem becomes a non-issue. – Jason Bassford – 2018-09-22T14:27:53.830

why is one in seven of those is more than one? The action make was performed by a single entity (it was among seven). – renakre – 2018-09-22T15:12:59.220

3@renakre The article is not talking about seven people who attempted to climb Everest and only one of them succeeded, According to the article, thousands of people have attempted to climb Everest (actual figure is over 30,000) and one in seven of those people (over 4,000 climbers) were successful. We are talking about those 4,000+ people, so we use a plural form of the verb. – JavaLatte – 2018-09-22T15:28:00.850

@JasonBassford The subject is not singular; it's the plural "seven". "One in seven" is a DP where "seven" is a 'fused determiner head", i.e. it functions simultaneously as determiner and head of the noun phrase. Thus the verb is plural because the head of the NP is plural. – BillJ – 2018-09-23T09:02:10.743


Because it is plural.

"one in seven" is not a designation of one specific human who has ever succeeded in a climb (and thus being a singular).

"one in seven" is instead a fraction of "group of people" - meaning 1/7 * x, or x/7 (where x is total amount of people (note: plural) that had ever attempted to climb Mount Everest.

So, if there have been (let's say) 1000 people attempting the climb, "one in seven" actually means about 142 people, which is obviously a plural.

In other words, subject is not "only one" but instead "(only) one in seven", which you can rephrase as "(only) 14% of all people (that attempt to conquer Mount Everest)"

As to your second question: "only" before "one" does not mean there was "only one" man that have ever succeeded in climbing Mount Everest, instead it means to convey that fraction 1/7 is very small (similar as you might say "I have only $15 in my wallet" when attempting to buy something that costs more than that).

Matija Nalis

Posted 2018-09-22T09:17:24.600

Reputation: 158

1The way you used numbers to explain this thing was the best. This concept is now permanently etched in my brain. – lea – 2018-09-22T22:23:14.660

@JavaLatte are we going to apply the same logic here in "one in a hundred / one in thousands". Only one in a thousand make it to the top. – lea – 2018-09-23T10:05:50.517

That's not how the grammar works. This is about verb agreement. The head of the NP is the plural "seven", so simple agreement dictates that the verb should also be plural, though as I said in my answer, singular override is also possible. – BillJ – 2018-09-23T14:22:13.187

@JavaLatte thanks, corrected to "one in seven" – Matija Nalis – 2018-09-24T19:21:47.937

How about correcting your answer as well? You've totally ignored the verb agreement rules that say a verb should agree with the head of the subject. The head of the subject NP is the plural "seven" and this is why the default verb is the plural "are". And this is not about fractions; it's called a proportional construction. – BillJ – 2018-09-25T07:36:17.580

@BillJ I don't see error in my answer and it is already too long for adding extra details, so I emphasized just what I thought was most important: that the subject is actually (hidden) people, so it is plural, and 1/7 is just a fraction (which could as well have been omitted if we didn't want to express details to reader). – Matija Nalis – 2018-09-25T10:16:33.397

The subject is not "people" but the fused determiner-head "seven". We understand it to mean "seven x", of course, but nevertheless the single lexeme "seven" is the syntactic head. But if you're saying that "people" in "thousands of people" is the head, then that is wrong as far as determining the head is concerned. I explained the syntax in my answer. – BillJ – 2018-09-25T11:20:23.443


For example, thousands have tried to conquer Mount Everest. Of those who make the attempt, [only one in seven make/makes it to the top].

The head of the bracketed noun phrase is the plural "seven", so the plural verb "make" follows the simple agreement rule.

However, the verb can be singular as well as plural, where the singular override is clearly motivated by the presence of singular "one".

Addition: Javalatte asks in comments about this example:

Of the days of the week, one in seven is / are a Sunday.

The analysis of "one in seven" is the same as your Mount Everest example. As before, the DP "one in seven" is a fused determiner-head rather than simply a determiner. The fact that these are fused-head construction doesn't seem to make much difference in principle to the verb-agreement possibilities.

The preference for the singular in this example must be motivated by the singular predicative complement, "a Sunday". The override is still in principle an optional one: that is, I wouldn't want to say that "are" is impossible here.


Of the days of the week, one in seven are Sundays.

Here, the predicative complement is the plural "Sundays" and singular "is" would be impossible, so clearly it is the complement that motivates the verb-form: "is a Sunday" / "are Sundays.


Posted 2018-09-22T09:17:24.600

Reputation: 9 994

1I am not convinced that seven is the subject of the sentence. one in seven is a fraction, and you need to look at what it's a fraction of. – JavaLatte – 2018-09-22T11:16:02.793

"One in seven" is a DP with the PP "in seven" as post head modifier. "Seven" is a fused deteminer-head where it is simultaneous head and determiner in the NP: we understand it as "one in seven x", where the head is x, and since "seven x" can only be plural, the verb too should be plural. But as I said, singular override is certainly possible and not ungrammatical. – BillJ – 2018-09-22T12:06:17.587

3,,so you would say "Of the days of the week, one in seven are a sunday"? – JavaLatte – 2018-09-22T12:22:35.910

Do you see any reason for the verb agreement in "one in seven (days)" to differ from "one in seven (climbers)"? – BillJ – 2018-09-22T13:38:47.003

3Yes. Last time I checked, there were seven days in a week, so one in seven days of the week is one. There are thousands of climbers, so one in seven is quite a lot. As you point out, it's the implied "days" or "climbers" that's the subject, not the seven. – JavaLatte – 2018-09-22T14:11:14.287

I've posted an addition to my answer to deal with your "days of the week" example. – BillJ – 2018-09-23T14:07:50.083

Incidentally, Java, in "Of the days of the week, one in seven are Sundays", the verb is plural not singular, thus proving that singular "is" is motivated by the predicative complement, thus "is Sunday / are Sundays". – BillJ – 2018-09-28T07:30:14.493