x (hishighnesshiko) wrote in punctuators,
x
hishighnesshiko
punctuators

Syntactic query.

Sheer curiosity:

"Fewer than 10% of children eat bugs."

or

"Less than 10% of children eat bugs."

Which is correct?

EDIT: To be specific, the question is structural: does the adjective apply to the percentage (which would require "less than", being continuous) or the number of children (which would require "fewer than", being discrete)?

EDIT 2: Ooh, I've thought of a possible analog: "The bower of roses is fragrant," as opposed to "The bower of roses are fragrant."

In this case, I know that standard English syntax places "roses" as subordinate to "bower", requiring the singular form of the verb. The essence of the sentence is, "The bower is fragrant."

If the same approach is used in the previous case, then "Less than 10% eat bugs" is correct.

Can anyone spot a methodological flaw in this, or does anyone know of any eccentricity in English syntax that contravenes this logic? Speak now or forever hold your peace.
Tags: confusables, discussion, structure
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According to this, if you're talking about things that are measured in bulk, you use "less." If you're talking about things that can be counted, you use "fewer." So I'd use "fewer," because a number is involved--10%.

Whereas I would say less, because a percent isn't actually countable. It's a manipulation of some set of data that has been counted.