Which what?

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Presumably this is elliptical for something like

We lose 300 Americans a week to drugs, 90% of which comes through the Southern Border.

Some might object to the singular agreement of "comes", but intuitions and behavior are likely to be variable on this point, especially because the antecedent is omitted :-)…


[h/t E.Z. Granet]


  1. Philip Taylor said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 8:57 am

    Donald Trump goes up in my estimation [1]. He is one of the few who can still spell "lose" correctly.

    [1] From 0.0 to 0.000001

  2. C said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 8:58 am

    Lost in translation from a Putin bot?

  3. Mark Meckes said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 9:31 am

    Philip Taylor: You might not want to be too hasty there: he's been known to spell it "loose" as well.

  4. Jerry Friedman said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 9:47 am

    For the problem with (syntactic) agreement, I could almost imagine "We lose 300 Americans a week to [this poison]…"

  5. Cervantes said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 10:11 am

    Not exactly a linguistics issue, but this is of course not actually true. Illicit fentanyl, which is a major contributor to overdose deaths, largely comes from China. And drugs that do come through the southern border largely come through legal ports of entry hidden in legitimate cargo. And a major portion of opioids consumed in the U.S. are manufactured in the U.S. and diverted from legal channels or prescribed by pill mills. So garbled syntax or not, it's complete bullshit.

  6. Vance Maverick said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 10:12 am

    Missing word is "heroin". See Daniel Dale:

  7. Daniel Baker said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 11:30 am

    Cervantes is correct that fentanyl is what's the real issue and that the facts of the matter don't support his position. (For example, legalizing cannabis has dramatically reduced opioid prescription rates and overdoses in Washington state, and treatment for addiction as opposed to incarceration has benefits across society.)

    Though I'd rather interpret the statement as claiming that the southern border is the river Styx.

  8. Shad said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 12:01 pm

    I've seen some interpret this as "300 Americans are illegally immigrating TO Mexico every week", which is unlikely but amusing.

  9. Philip Taylor said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 12:14 pm

    Wouldn't they [the Americans] be emigrating rather than immigrating ?

  10. Joel Mielke said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 1:07 pm

    It's as though he's talking in code.

  11. Shad said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 1:48 pm

    @Philip Taylor:

    Oops, my bad.

  12. Ralph Hickok said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 2:28 pm

    I don't see why "comes" would be a problem for anyone.

    Isn't "90% comes through the southern border" perfectly grammatical?

  13. Jerry Friedman said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 4:55 pm

    Ralph Hickock: Isn't "90% comes through the southern border" perfectly grammatical?

    It is after "heroin", but not after "drugs". I didn't realize that, as Vance Maverick noted, "heroin" was the intended word. (The total rate of opiate overdose deaths in the U.S. is much higher than 300 per day.)

  14. Nathan said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 6:29 pm

    Of course "90% of drugs comes through" is grammatical.
    "90% of drugs come through" would be a completely different statistic.

  15. Jerry Friedman said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 7:43 pm

    Nathan: Of course "90% of drugs comes through" is grammatical.
    "90% of drugs come through" would be a completely different statistic.

    I can't agree. There are no hits at COCA for "percent of drugs [singular verb]" and there are very few for such things as "this year less than 2 percent of revenues is earmarked for local governments", where I think "revenues" is being treated as a mass in a way "drugs" normally isn't. There's only one relevant Google hit for "percent of drugs is" (picking a more common verb) that looks like native-speaker English, and it's from India, so maybe that's allowed in Indian English.

    Looking at it from the other point of view, the first three pages of Google hits on "percent of drugs" had no examples with singular verbs, and the same for the first two pages for "percent of the drugs". In case the distinguishing you have in mind is between kinds of drugs and volume of drugs, there were examples of both.

  16. Bennett McCardle said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 10:13 pm

    There's another possible read, of course. "We lose 300 Americans a week *to Canada*, most of which comes into *that country* through the Southern Border *of Canada.*"

    (It's actually about 180 per week, but we know how he exaggerates. .. see https://globalnews.ca/news/4396938/move-to-canada-donald-trump/ for the stats on permanent residencies granted by Canada to immigrants from the US, 2017).

    You're welcome.

  17. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    January 11, 2019 @ 10:23 pm

    “Drugs are bad.” “Drugs come from pharmacies.” “Drugs are coming over the border.” “Drugs come into the country via X Avenue.”

    All of these sentences look, sound, and feel correct in my idiolect.

  18. Caroline said,

    January 12, 2019 @ 9:19 am

    @Shad (with due respect to @Philip Taylor):

    It’s correct to say either, “Americans are immigrating to Mexico” or “Americans are emigrating from the US.” It’s the preposition and focal country that determine which verb applies. Or you can say, “Americans are migrating from the US to Mexico.”

  19. Bob Ladd said,

    January 12, 2019 @ 1:49 pm

    @Caroline: Sorry, but my intuitions are with Philip Taylor and Shad. If you say "Americans are immigrating to Mexico", there is, as you say, some sort of implicit focus on the effects the migration has on Mexico. But it's also perfectly OK to say "Americans are emigrating to Mexico", where the implicit focus is the effect that the migration is having on the US. You can use either preposition with either verb, depending on whether your implicit focus is on the country of origin or the country of destination.

  20. Philip Taylor said,

    January 12, 2019 @ 2:53 pm

    I'm not convinced that one can "immigrate to"; I think that one "emigrates to" or "immigrates from".

  21. Caroline said,

    January 12, 2019 @ 4:33 pm

    @Bob Ladd, I’m sorry I didn’t make the context for my comment to Shad clearer. As you can see for yourself if you go back and look at Shad and Philip Taylor‘s comments, contrary to what you inferred, I was actually supporting Shad’s usage of “immigrate to Mexico,” which Philip Taylor had in fact questioned.

    I of course agree with you that the phrases “immigrate from” and “emigrate to,” are appropriate in some contexts. I didn’t intend to imply that they weren’t. My point that “immigrate” goes with “to” and “emigrate” goes with “from” was intended as a respectful nod to what I took to be Philip Taylor’s intuition: for the sake of clarity and elegance, a writer should always (also) ensure that it’s clear to the reader where an “immigrant” is going *to*, and where an “emigrant” is coming *from*—or else use the word “migrant.” That simply follows from the fact that the prefix “im-”means “to go into,” and the prefix “e-”means “to go out of.”

    (BTW, while I appreciated the tactfulness of your saying that your “intuitions” on this are different from mine, that tactfulness was unfortunately undercut by your prefacing your remark with the words “Sorry, but…” which makes clear you actually think you’re correcting me. I assume you weren’t consciously intending to be uncivil.)

  22. AG said,

    January 12, 2019 @ 8:09 pm

    I honestly thought the missing word was "jobs". What idiots would smuggle drugs on foot through the desert areas he's planning to wall up? Once again I've apparently overestimated his intelligence.

  23. Jerry Friedman said,

    January 12, 2019 @ 10:36 pm

    Philip Taylor: Being in America, I'd certainly say that my great-grandparents immigrated to America in the 1890s or thereabouts. I agree with others that it depends on which country you're focusing on.

    To compare your intuition to American usage, here are results from COCA. (I don't know of a British corpus that's as up-to-date and as heavy on standard usage.)

    [emigrate] to: 610
    [emigrate] from: 387
    [immigrate] to: 643
    [immigrate] from: 129

    The brackets mean all inflected forms of the word are included.)

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