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Is “majority” singular or plural?

10 Nov

Once again the problem occurred as I was writing on my personal blog. The entry is about comment spam, and does mention this blog, so you may care to look: The joy of spam. The sentence: The majority lately, as in the other blogs, has been people with Greek names and sites with China endings… I have decided to make that have been.

I found this answer:

“Majority” is one of those words that can be either singular or plural. Common sense works pretty well in deciding which. If you mean the word to describe a collection of individuals, then the word should be treated as plural: “The majority of e-mail users are upset about the increase in spam.” If the word is used to describe a collective group, then consider it singular: “A 90% majority is opposed to scheduling the next meeting at 6:00 A.M.” If you are uncertain which you mean, then choose whatever form sounds best to you; it’s not likely to bother many people.

That’s from Paul Brian’s Common Errors in English, a really useful site.

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7 responses to “Is “majority” singular or plural?

  1. Dave Bath

    November 11, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    We could avoid “majority” as a plural by going teutonic rather than latinate, e.g. “most email users are upset”. Mind you, “majorities normally oppress minorities”, “the majority normally oppresses minorities” and “the majority normally oppresses the minority” seem to mean something subtly different.

     
  2. James Fouassier

    June 25, 2010 at 5:42 am

    What happened to the rule that the predicate agrees with the subject, not the prepositional phrase? Drop the prep phrase and there is no issue but that the word is singular.

     
  3. James Fouassier

    February 2, 2011 at 5:43 am

    One more thought. The word “children” suggests more than one child but clearly is singular. Likewise the word “women”. This conclusion is supported by the fact that in order to create the possessive forms of these words one adds an apostrophe and then an “s”, as in “children’s” and “women’s”. One does not write an “s” and then the apostrophe (womens’ or “childrens’), does one? “Majority” suggests more than one but it is singular.

     
  4. Angie

    February 18, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    The words you mention are not singular, they’re just irregular plural forms.

     
  5. JJ

    October 4, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    I’m pretty sure he (the poster of this article) is wrong, at least in one of his examples, “The majority of e-mail users are upset about the increase in spam.” Majority is still singular, and the verb has been conjugated to fit the prepositional phrase, which is wrong, it because the verb should be conjugated to fit the subject, which is “majority” – not “e-mail users.”

    Am I right? This is what I learned, I just want to confirm if I’m correct.

     
  6. Neil

    October 4, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    I was taught that too but my ear comes down firmly on the side of “are” in that example and that is what I would go with.

     
  7. Jack

    April 23, 2012 at 5:48 am

    Even without a prepositional phrase, it can take both forms. It depends if the majority is functioning as a block or a collection of individuals. “The majority is voting for x,” indicates that the majority votes as a block. “The majority are voting for x,” indicate that the voters still operate independently but most are voting. So the singular or plural depends on how the majority are functioning.

     

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