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If I say "the majority of" followed by a plural noun, should it then be followed by a singular or a plural verb?

Some examples:

The majority of cars is blue.

The majority of cars are blue.

The majority of cars runs on gasoline.

The majority of cars run on gasoline.

The majority of patients is incurable.

The majority of patients are incurable.

I feel that in all cases I should use the plural verb form because the property applies to each individual component rather than to the mass.

PS: There is a similar thread The majority: plural or singular

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  • In terms of agreement, "majority" is a borderline case. Generally, there is plural override, but singular agreement can occur when the determiner is "a", as in "A large majority of voters is required for a decisive win".
    – BillJ
    Sep 29, 2022 at 8:14
  • According to these grammarians, "the majority of" uses a singular verb and "a majority of" uses a plural one grammarphobia.com/blog/2007/09/majority-rules.html
    – user161917
    Sep 29, 2022 at 9:53

3 Answers 3

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On its own, "the majority" is a collective noun, which means it can be used as singular or plural depending on the context and your intent. This is explained at this question.

But if "the majority" is followed by "...of X", then it's always used in the plural. So all your examples should be in the plural.

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  • grammarphobia.com/blog/2007/09/majority-rules.html This blog states that "the majority" should use a singular verb. What do you think?
    – user161917
    Sep 29, 2022 at 15:27
  • @pierrot5 That blog says using "the" is "usually a tip-off" that its singular. This means "people usually choose 'the' when it's a singular verb, which the opposite of saying people should use a singular verb with 'the'. The blog also says that "a majority" is usually plural, "especially with of". I think this is too weak. Like I say in my answer, I think "a majority of" and "the majority of" are always plural.
    – gotube
    Sep 29, 2022 at 15:58
  • Could the controversy come from this? In British English a group noun can take either a singular or a plural verb. But in American English a group noun takes a singular verb. ell.stackexchange.com/questions/310009/…
    – user161917
    Sep 29, 2022 at 16:25
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    @pierrot5 No. I'm Canadian (we speak American English), and I'm saying that "the majority of X" will always be plural. And... that's not even true about American English speakers, as I've commented on that answer.
    – gotube
    Sep 29, 2022 at 19:22
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I think the other answers posted so far are neglecting something important about the word "majority", which is that it doesn't always indicate a collection (or a collective for that matter). There are of course many times when it does, and in those times, you must use a plural verb (because "the majority" is countable and plural). However, there is a second context in which the expression "the majority" may appear which indicates the larger or largest part of a whole. In those cases, you use the singular verb.

Here are some valid examples:

  • The majority of cars on the street are white.

The plural is used because "most" means the a countable number of cars, all of which are white.

  • The majority of cars run on gasoline.

The plural is used because "most" indicates a countable number of cars.

And here are some valid examples of using the singular:

  • The majority of the pie is burnt.

The singular is used because "most" indicates the largest part or portion of a single thing.

  • The majority of the fence needs repair.

The singular is used because here again, "most" indicates the largest part or portion of a single thing.

-1

These type of questions are frequently asked on the site. Some collective expressions take singular, but many, including this one, idiomatically will take either.

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  • I think you mean "Of all the cars on the road, the majority is/are white".
    – BillJ
    Sep 29, 2022 at 8:09
  • According to the similar thread, it can also be idiomatically singular.
    – user161917
    Sep 29, 2022 at 8:14
  • Take a look at this rule. It conflicts with yours. grammarphobia.com/blog/2007/09/majority-rules.html
    – user161917
    Sep 29, 2022 at 9:58
  • I do realise I have got this wrong and I am going to edit it to indicate that either is possible. My apologies.
    – WS2
    Sep 29, 2022 at 11:47
  • I am not sure that either is possible. According to the link, the majority of uses a singular verb and a majority of uses a plural one. But maybe this rule is also wrong because all answers that I find on this subject are inconsistent...
    – user161917
    Sep 29, 2022 at 14:19

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