Writing an English book as non native speaker leaves one suspended in mid-air on numerous issues. Should mass here be plural or singular?

being one of the masses
being one of the mass

I've tried to Google it, but nothing useful popped up.

  • Interesting question, but methinks you selected the wrong answer. Relevant meta post. – J.R. Aug 11 '16 at 1:23
  • Well, since they both point out the right choice, both are right. I found the one I accepted clearer for its brevity. Yet I can see why the other one is more favoured, since it is more generally oriented. – guf Aug 12 '16 at 7:55
  • The currently-accepted answer was corrected after you had already accepted it. Moreover, that answer might tell you which one to use, but I still think it as incorrect information in it. – J.R. Aug 12 '16 at 14:16

When used as a noun, the plural, the masses is the only option with this meaning, and it must be used with the definite article. The correct way of expressing this is

being one of the masses

When used as an adjective, mass has a related meaning

having an effect on or involving a large number of people or forming a large amount

When used in the singular noun, mass has several meanings, none of which are relevant to this meaning.

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When you say:

A mass of the people were bothered.

It means a considerable number of people were bothered. On the other hand the masses refers to the people as a group (ie the common people). For example:

This bothered the masses.

So you should say one of the masses.

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  • A mass of the people were bothered ≠ a majority of people were bothered; a considerable amount ≠ a larger amount. The word mass can refer to a majority, but it can also refer to some significant number smaller than that. – J.R. Aug 9 '16 at 9:55
  • Oh I see. Thank you for the correction I have edited the answer. – Panic Aug 9 '16 at 9:59
  • I have edited your edit. See this Ngram. – J.R. Aug 9 '16 at 10:01
  • When used to mean majority, it must be used with the definite article, the mass of. oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/mass – JavaLatte Aug 9 '16 at 10:14
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    @Panic, if you read my comment carefully, it says that the mass of (note the definite article) has the meaning majority. You wrote a mass of (note the indefinite article), Following the link that I provided, you will see that, when used with the indefinite article about people, it means a large number of people crowded together. – JavaLatte Aug 9 '16 at 10:42

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