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Sample sentence
A recent survey shows this: The primary reason students choose computer science major is that computer science major often enables students to get a better job.

Question
If only 10% of the students agree with the reason, can it still be "primary reason" as long as other reasons are supported by less than 10% of the students? (= It is the No. 1 reason.)
Or does "primary" imply "most students"?

1 Answer 1

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This is potentially ambiguous. The natural reading would be that more students chose it than chose any other reason. Another way of saying that is that it was chosen by a plurality of students. It would not have to be a majority of students (more than half) although it could be. However it is potentially ambiguous since we do not know whether they were asked "Why did you choose" or "What was the primary reason".

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  • Please assume they were asked "why did you choose CS major?" and the person who conducted the survey tried to summarize the result and wrote "primary reason." Sorry it's unclear.
    – dmjy
    Oct 5, 2020 at 12:40
  • My first few sentences cover that case I think. Note that plurality is a technical term not part of most speakers everyday usage but majority is.
    – mdewey
    Oct 5, 2020 at 12:51
  • Thank you for your explanation. I understand it. I didn't know the word, plurality, but it seems useful when writing formal documents.
    – dmjy
    Oct 5, 2020 at 13:09

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