Find all School-related info fast with the new School-Specific MBA Forum

 It is currently 13 Feb 2016, 08:05

### GMAT Club Daily Prep

#### Thank you for using the timer - this advanced tool can estimate your performance and suggest more practice questions. We have subscribed you to Daily Prep Questions via email.

Customized
for You

we will pick new questions that match your level based on your Timer History

Track

every week, we’ll send you an estimated GMAT score based on your performance

Practice
Pays

we will pick new questions that match your level based on your Timer History

# Events & Promotions

###### Events & Promotions in June
Open Detailed Calendar

# HELP!! Singular or plural?

Author Message
Senior Manager
Joined: 06 Apr 2005
Posts: 352
Location: USA
Followers: 1

Kudos [?]: 56 [0], given: 1

HELP!! Singular or plural? [#permalink]  06 Nov 2005, 03:13
Hi all,

I came across this question, in a reputed study guide that says that the following sentence is correct.

"A majority of voters is opposed to the current policy"

I thought the correct sentence should read -
"A majority of voters are opposed to the current policy"

I did a search on the internet and came across this link that seems to confirm my suspicion.
http://www.economist.com/research/styleGuide/index.cfm?page=805687

My understanding is that words like majority, minority are plural, when they refer to many individual entities in a group

Thus the following sentence is correct
- "The majority of students in this university are blacks"

On the other hand, when words like majority, minority, plurality..., are used to refer to the totality or the group itself, then the singular form is correct.

e.g. The student majority is opposed to the fee increase

I think my study guide is wrong, and hence I wanted to clarify my doubts in this forum. Please chip in with your thoughts.

Thanks
Current Student
Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 5239
Followers: 23

Kudos [?]: 257 [0], given: 0

From the same website:

"...There is a rule for majority. When it is used in an abstract sense, it takes the singular; when it is used to denote the elements making up the majority, it should be plural."

A two-thirds majority is needed to amend the constitution.

<but>

A majority of the Senate were opposed.

So, the sentence should read: The voting majority is opposed to the current policy.

<or>

A majority of voters are opposed to the current policy.

Here are a couple of quotes from Cambridge to further buttress your argument:

The majority of the employees have university degrees. (precise)

A large majority of people approve of the death sentence. (precise)

A majority is needed to secure the election. (vague)
Senior Manager
Joined: 06 Apr 2005
Posts: 352
Location: USA
Followers: 1

Kudos [?]: 56 [0], given: 1

Thank you GMATT73

That's precisely my point, "A majority of voters are opposed to the current policy. " is correct.

It can be scary if your study material gives you a wrong example and misleads you.
Current Student
Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 5239
Followers: 23

Kudos [?]: 257 [0], given: 0

Darth, I have come across numerous typos everywhere, but an S-V error of this nature is just plain sloppy. Just out of curiosity, was it from one of the big three prep companies (K-PR-MGMAT)? More importantly, was it stated like that as part of a question (SC) being tested, or just poorly written in the explanation notes?
GMAT Club Legend
Joined: 15 Dec 2003
Posts: 4308
Followers: 32

Kudos [?]: 300 [0], given: 0

GMAT73, I see your rule about "majority" but it did not address the difference between conjugating the verb following "majority + prepositional phrase + verb(plural or singular?)"

This is one of the rules which I talked about at length in this post:
http://www.gmatclub.com/phpbb/viewtopic ... 2&start=20
Although the post starts with the general "X of Y" rule, I then talked about existing exceptions such as "some of X", "all of X", "a percentage of X" or "the majority of X". In those cases, you would conjugate the following verb with the prepositional phrase immediately preceding the verb.

Let me give you an example:
The majority of people are gone
The vast majority of the pizza is eaten

As you can see, depending on whether the preceding prepositional phrase in green is plural or singular, the verb following will be conjugated accordingly. The same applies for the exceptions which I mentioned to you above. However, when you say "the majority agrees", it only makes sense that the verb is singular because the subject is now a clear singular noun. Go through my detailed explanation for gmataquaguy and you will see what I meant.
_________________

Best Regards,

Paul

Last edited by Paul on 06 Nov 2005, 04:33, edited 2 times in total.
GMAT Club Legend
Joined: 15 Dec 2003
Posts: 4308
Followers: 32

Kudos [?]: 300 [0], given: 0

Conclusion: the economist article is grammatically wrong
_________________

Best Regards,

Paul

Current Student
Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 5239
Followers: 23

Kudos [?]: 257 [0], given: 0

Paul, does it matter if we use the definate article the instead of the indefinate article a?

From your previous post you stated that certain plural nouns have multiple meanings depending on the article preceding them.

The number of calls is overwhelming --> definite article so verb is singular
A number of people are responding --> indefinite article so verb is plural

Comparing your second example to Darths example, we get:
A number of people are responding.
A majority of voters are opposed to the current policy.

Both sentences use the the article A and both are completed with the plural conjugation of "be".
GMAT Club Legend
Joined: 15 Dec 2003
Posts: 4308
Followers: 32

Kudos [?]: 300 [0], given: 0

GMATT73, you are right when those articles are applied to "a/the number". This would not affect "majority of X" however. The fact is that when speaking of about "a number of X", we really mean more than 1 whereas "the number of X", we are specifically referring to a statistical number, the number being 100, 1000 or whatever. In other words, "number" has a different rule in that the article will define whether it should be viewed as a whole or as a singular subject.

Now apply that article concept to "majority"
Ex: The vast majority of the land is destroyed
EX: A vast majority of the land is destroyed

The example above shows that the article will not change the verb and that the latter is really conjugated with the number of the prepositional phrase, "land".
_________________

Best Regards,

Paul

GMAT Club Legend
Joined: 15 Dec 2003
Posts: 4308
Followers: 32

Kudos [?]: 300 [0], given: 0

In your given example, given that "voters" and "people" are plural and preceding the verb in "majority of X", the verb has to be plural.
_________________

Best Regards,

Paul

Senior Manager
Joined: 06 Apr 2005
Posts: 352
Location: USA
Followers: 1

Kudos [?]: 56 [0], given: 1

GMATT73 wrote:
Darth, I have come across numerous typos everywhere, but an S-V error of this nature is just plain sloppy. Just out of curiosity, was it from one of the big three prep companies (K-PR-MGMAT)? More importantly, was it stated like that as part of a question (SC) being tested, or just poorly written in the explanation notes?

I took this sentence from the Manhattan GMAT SC prep guide. This sentence appears as part of a problem set in the Subject-verb agreement chapter. Their material and methodology is better than Kaplan and Princeton, but this is a glaring mistake.

Thanks
Senior Manager
Joined: 06 Apr 2005
Posts: 352
Location: USA
Followers: 1

Kudos [?]: 56 [0], given: 1

Paul wrote:
Conclusion: the economist article is grammatically wrong

Hi Paul,

Thanks once again for explaining the concept to me. But, I took the "voters" example from the MGMAT material. I thought the economist article was correct. Could you clarify.

Thanks
Current Student
Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 5239
Followers: 23

Kudos [?]: 257 [0], given: 0

Paul wrote:
GMATT73, you are right when those articles are applied to "a/the number". This would not affect "majority of X" however. The fact is that when speaking of about "a number of X", we really mean more than 1 whereas "the number of X", we are specifically referring to a statistical number, the number being 100, 1000 or whatever. In other words, "number" has a different rule in that the article will define whether it should be viewed as a whole or as a singular subject.

Now apply that article concept to "majority"
Ex: The vast majority of the land is destroyed
EX: A vast majority of the land is destroyed

The example above shows that the article will not change the verb and that the latter is really conjugated with the number of the prepositional phrase, "land".

I see you point Paul, however IMHO the two examples you give are still fundamentally different from Darths original sentence in that you have interjected the definate article the between the plural counting classifier "majority of" and the singular prepositional phrase, "land."

Ex: The vast majority of the land is destroyed
EX: A vast majority of the land is destroyed

Darths example didnt use the definate article in the same way.

"A majority of voters are opposed to the current policy"

From what I can gather, your above examples clearly demonstrate this grammatical concept:

The majority of people are gone
The vast majority of the pizza is eaten
GMAT Club Legend
Joined: 15 Dec 2003
Posts: 4308
Followers: 32

Kudos [?]: 300 [0], given: 0

Well, this is the case simply because you cannot have a singular noun without an article. For example, while you can say, "I would like to have trees in my garden", you cannot say "I would like to have tree in my garden". You do need an article in front of singular nouns. As for "the" determining the number of the verb, we sort of say so only because it is incidental to the use of a singular noun.
_________________

Best Regards,

Paul

Similar topics Replies Last post
Similar
Topics:
1 Singular Or Plural 9 03 Mar 2011, 11:17
singular and plural 1 04 Aug 2009, 13:40
Is Data singular or plural? 2 06 Jun 2008, 06:30
Collective nounds: Singular or Plural? 2 24 Jul 2007, 12:51
1 Singular or Plural? 4 01 May 2007, 15:07
Display posts from previous: Sort by