Sometimes you use a word-combination of 2 nouns to denote a quantity of entities: «большинство людей». Should a singular or plural form be used for a verb after that? I.e., «большинство людей не знает» or «большинство людей не знают»? Why?


3 Answers 3


Both are used, i.e. in modern Russian these two forms are interchangeable in many context. Though, not always.

  1. If it isn't a two-word combination, but a single word denoting some concept which is formally a word in singular — then only formal grammatical agreement is correct, i.e. singular: Большинство не знает.
  2. Plural agreement is recommended in the following cases:
    • if you need to stress that the actions were performed independently and/or that the agents were active rather than passive: Большинство студентов хорошо написали дипломы.
    • if you have a long sentence and there are many words between the subject and the object: formal agreement will sound less clear in this case (you'll have to re-read the sentence to realise that the subject is formally a singular construction)
    • when you have several predicates: Большинство родителей любят своих детей, но не всегда знают их друзей.
    • if you have an adjectival phrase in plural that describes the subject. if the predicate contains adjective in plural: Большинство кошек в питомнике были полосатыми.

from http://www.gramota.ru/spravka/letters/?rub=bolshinstvo


Actually, both are possible and interchangeable, according to the Russian grammar rules.

For example,

Большинство граждан проголосовало за нового президента
Большинство граждан проголосовали за нового президента

The second option is preferable:

  1. When the subject is separated from the predicate with another parts of the sentence:

    • Множество замечаний по содержанию диссертации и оформлению библиографии были высказаны молодому аспиранту.
  2. When the subject is separated from the predicate by an attributive construction:

    • Часть средств, вырученных от продажи книги, пойдут на содержание больниц.
  3. If the action of every participant is important:

    • Ряд сотрудников нашей организации выступили с этой инициативой.
  4. If there are two predicates:

    • Ряд учеников не считают выполнение домашних заданий необходимым и приходят на урок неподготовленными.
  5. If the predicate is formed by a noun or an adjective in plural:

    • Большинство домов в этой деревне были деревянными.
  • Большинство проголосовало
  • Люди, составляющие большинство, проголосовали

In the first case, you are talking about a single entity - Большинство.

In the second, many entities, Люди.

Большинство людей is still a single entity. Людей is just a qualifier.

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