Sixty percent of the water COME or COMES in?

 

I have not done a blog post on subject/verb agreement in a while. That was a good thing, but a recent article about Jefferson County's "inherited sewer pipe" problems contained a sentence that brought the agreement issue back to the front page of The Birmingham News. Here is the sentence that caught my eye:

John S. Young, the court-appointed receiver, testified during a bankruptcy hearing last month, that 60 percent of the water flowing through county sewer pipes to the treatment plants come in through broken joints, leaky manhole covers and other flaws.

Whoops! The subject for the verb COME is "60 PERCENT OF THE WATER." This is what I call a "lump sum" subject.  We write that 60 percent of the bottles (countable) on the shelf have (plural) gold labels, but we write that 60 percent of the water (not countable) in the lake comes (singular) from Patton Creek.

We don't think of WATER as something that can be counted and made plural. We would not say WATER COME THROUGH BROKEN JOINTS.  Therefore, the verb should be COMES.

I agree with the commas before and after THE COURT-APPOINTED RECEIVER because they set off something that renames JOHN S. YOUNG. However, I would not put a comma between MONTH and THAT. A that clause should not be set off from the rest of the sentence.

I would edit the sentence to read this way:

John S. Young, the court-appointed receiver, testified during a bankruptcy hearing last month that 60 percent of the water flowing through county sewer pipes to the treatment plants comes in through broken joints, leaky manhole covers and other flaws.

Let's hope Jefferson County, Alabama, will find the means to solve its longstanding sewer nightmare in the New Year of 2012.

I hope those of my readers who are Christians had a very Merry Christmas, and I hope the holiday season has been enjoyable for everyone. I did not intend to take such a long break from Grammar Glitch Central, but an unexpected and nasty case of strep throat kept me from keeping up as I would have liked. Now, hopefully, things are back to normal!


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6 Responses to “Sixty percent of the water COME or COMES in?”

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