Is is grammatical to use a mass noun after the phrase "the majority of"?

5

The majority of people who have a church wedding ...

is grammatical because "people" is a countable noun, but, for example, "driving" is not:

The majority of driving is done on country roads or highway.

So, I wonder if it is good English to use a mass noun after "majority of". Is it?

user114

Posted 2013-02-28T21:18:08.333

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Answers

6

Because majority means "3a : a number or percentage equaling more than half of a total (a majority of voters) (a two-thirds majority)", and because it's both singular and plural (e.g., the majority {is / are} in favor of the proposal), people sometimes use it with non-count mass nouns.

You can always replace "the majority of" with "most":

{The majority of / Most [CHOOSE ONE]} rats in the USA are white lab rats that frequent medical schools and pharmaceutical companies.
{The majority of / Most} fresh water comes from rainfall, melting snow, and melting glaciers.

The ODO says: "Strictly speaking, majority should be used with countable nouns to mean ‘the greater number’, as in the majority of cases. Use with uncountable nouns to mean ‘the greatest part’, as in I spent the majority of the day reading, is not considered good standard English, although it is common in informal contexts." [Emphasis added.]

I agree with the ODO. When writing and speaking formally, use most instead of the majority of with non-count mass nouns like water and driving.

user264

Posted 2013-02-28T21:18:08.333

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5

Majority (n) 1. the greater number or part of something:

Yes, it is perfectly grammatical. I can't come up with a better way of stating the second sentence.

Kevin

Posted 2013-02-28T21:18:08.333

Reputation: 5 009

Is it wrong to say "the maximum driving"? – Persian Cat – 2013-02-28T22:29:54.447

2In this sentence, that would not make sense. – Kevin – 2013-02-28T22:32:02.190

Thanks! I am not sure to ask it as a question or not. Using of maximum is not clear for me. – Persian Cat – 2013-02-28T22:35:43.540

2Maximum would mean "highest" or "greatest". You could say "The maximum driving speed is 55 mile per hour, unless you want to get a ticket." – Kevin – 2013-02-28T22:37:59.287

Thanks! the problem was translating from Farsi to English which makes a sentence completely different. – Persian Cat – 2013-02-28T22:43:44.950

@user37, but you could say "the most of driving ..." without the danger of having a problem during the utterance. – None – 2013-02-28T22:52:17.630

@Carlo: You can't say The most of driving: it's ungrammatical unless it appears in a sentence like this: Dude, make the most of driving while you can, because the repo man's gonna take your car back next week". – None – 2013-02-28T23:13:16.493

4A better way of writing the second sentence is this: Most driving is done on country roads and highways. – None – 2013-02-28T23:15:12.703