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I am writing a literature review. My question is which sentence is correct?

  1. Most of the existing work focus on...
  2. Most of the existing work focuses on ...
  3. Most of the existing studies focus on ...

Thanks

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If the object after "most" is singular then the verb is singular too, else if the object after "most" is plural then the verb is plural:

  • Most of his ideas are silly. (ideas - plural, are - plural)
  • Most of his money is spent on PC games. (money - singular (uncountable), is - singular)

Your second and third sentences are correct. The first one is incorrect.

  • 1
    Trick question: "Most of the fish is/are edible"? – Hagen von Eitzen Jun 13 '17 at 20:57
  • Does this boil down to whether the object is countable? – chrylis Jun 14 '17 at 0:49
  • 2
    @HagenvonEitzen Both are possible. Most of the fish is - refers to one fish, it may be rather big in a certain context. Maybe a part of this fish isn't edible, like fins or head. Most of the fish are - refers to a number of fish. – SovereignSun Jun 14 '17 at 7:50
  • But how. This looks incorrect. Like many people say "a lot of books 'are' there" but it is incorrect. The correct is "a lot of books 'is' there". Similarly, Most should be singular irrespective of the object being singular and plural. – user54836 Oct 19 '17 at 17:49
  • @AnuragSingh Since when? books - plural, so are. That would work with uncountables only - a lot of money is. – SovereignSun Oct 19 '17 at 17:52
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  1. Most of the existing work focus on...

  2. Most of the existing work focuses on ...

  3. Most of the existing studies focus on ...

Your ex.1 Is ungrammatical since it requires the 3rd person sing verb, “focuses”.

2 and 3. are okay – these are partitive constructions with the fused-determiner head “most”. The partitive oblique denotes a quantity and the matrix NP denotes a subquantity of that quantity.

The verb-form is determined by the matrix NP, in this case “most x”, where x may be singular or plural depending on the partitive oblique; in this singular “work” and plural “studies”.

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