I wrote:

a minority of pairs has (...)

A native speaker corrected this with:

a minority of pairs have (...)

Which one is correct? I thought it should be the former, because minority is singular. But English is funny sometimes with collective nouns. What is the case here?

  • Is there a BrE/AmE difference here? AmE speaker here, and I would say "a minority of pairs has", but then I also say "Microsoft has" whereas I think a BrE speaker would say "Microsoft have". – shoover Jun 19 '15 at 17:39
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    "Minority" is being used here as a quantificational noun, so you've got some wiggle room in deciding which noun governs the verb. – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 19 '15 at 18:25

You are using 'minority' to mean 'a small number of' which can mean more than one. A similar sentence to illustrate this would be:

A small number of pairs have

If you meant a single pair and want to use 'has', you should sign-post this explicitly e.g.

A pair has or A single pair has

| improve this answer | |
  • In context it is certainly more than one. I realise the grammar for "a small number" is the same, but why is it "have"; "number" is singular? – gerrit Jun 19 '15 at 22:01
  • According to OALD (AE and BE), only a small minority of students is/are interested in politics these days. However, The Free DIctionary says we must use the plural form of a verb after the plural noun. – Khan Jun 20 '15 at 10:32
  • Actually, a minority doesn't mean a small number . It means the smaller numbered group of two or more groups. A minority population can still have millions of members. – ColleenV Jun 20 '15 at 12:31

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