I understand that assets is in plural form but not sure about the following sentences:-

The bulk of its assets were tied in property


The bulk of its assets was tie in property.

  • 2
    See this note: "The use of a plural noun after bulk, when it has the meaning 'majority', although common, is considered by some to be incorrect and should be avoided. This usage is most commonly encountered, according to the Bank of English, when referring to funds and profits: the bulk of our profits stem from the sale of beer. The synonyms majority and most would work better in this context." Apr 11, 2014 at 4:10
  • @DamkerngT. It's again the case of collective nouns. Both singular and plural are possible depending on the perception of the speaker. Apr 11, 2014 at 4:13
  • If was were correct, it would be "was tied", not "was tie".
    – user230
    Apr 11, 2014 at 11:17

2 Answers 2


I don't think there are hard and fast rules here. However, I think most native language speakers would make a distinction based on whether 'bulk' was explicitly referring to a count noun or a mass noun.

Typical count nouns: dolls, houses, people Typical mass nouns: butter, information, music

When I was at the department store I saw dozens of toy cars. The bulk of them were red.

When I was at the festival I heard a lot of music. The bulk of it was awful.

In the first sentence, 'was' is possible, but in my estimate, MUCH less likely, especially in speech:

When I was at the department store I saw dozens of toy cars. The bulk of them was red.


The majority of the population was/were happy.

The majority of the figurines were broken.

  • I find the end of your answer confusing. I can compare, but it doesn't help me know which one is better (if I naturally knew what sounded natural, I wouldn't be asking). I think I understand what you say, but it really hinges on 2 words in the middle line (was is less likely). Maybe you can make this easier to understand by marking correct sentences and incorrect sentences ? Feb 18, 2016 at 9:46

I tried to fit this sentence the way subject-verb agreement is described here.

Do you use a singular or plural verb to match a collective noun such as team or staff? The answer is, It depends. If these nouns are acting as a unit, use a singular verb.

Also, I could not find collective noun taking its or form the like on Wikipedia page and even on the list of collective nouns at several places.

I guess in the case of collective nouns the pronoun its shouldn't be there here. Clearly, it's talking about the bulk which is singular and hence would take was in my opinion.

  • 1
    Both was/were are possible, depending on what you said. But still we can use both. It's BrE and AmE difference, I guess. Apr 11, 2014 at 10:22
  • @Man_From_India which reference we can have for the term bulk as a collective noun? Especially when the pronoun further talks about it?
    – Maulik V
    Apr 11, 2014 at 10:25
  • [ The rest of the eggs ] were on the table, versus [ The rest of the salt ] was on the table. This is an exception to the normal rules of agreement. Here, a smaller NP inside the subject NP apparently determines the number the verb agrees with.
    – user230
    Apr 11, 2014 at 11:21
  • @snailplane in any case, do we use salt with were? Especially like the example you gave here? Also, where bulk is called a collective noun? I'm also interested in that.
    – Maulik V
    Apr 11, 2014 at 11:39
  • The salt was on the table.
    – user230
    Apr 11, 2014 at 11:39

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