a large majority - How to quantify?

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gfcat

New Member
russian
Hi, all!
How would you quantify "a large majority" ? I need figures for a research, but found just that expression regarding the subject.
So, how much should it mean? 90-99% or 60-100%?
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    By the nature of it, you can't quantify it. A majority could be a mere 51%, so a large majority must be a lot more than that, but how much is a lot? In an election, 60% or perhaps even 55% would be a good, solid majority. In other situations, you might want it to be larger. All I can say is it doesn't require an overwhelming number like 95% or even 90%.
     

    gfcat

    New Member
    russian
    thanx for the answer. But what if you've got only two options? Not like elections, where there are several parties/candidates and an option to decline all of them/not to vote at all.
    'A large majority of modern TV-sets have this feature'. Others have not.
    What figures come to your mind in this case?

    And if the number is overwhelming (90% or more), can you call it "a large m."? Or 'overwhelming' or else would be preferable?
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I suspect that the actual figures for "a large majority" in English are exactly the same as in Russian. ;)

    You are asking us "What percentage of TVs "have this feature"?" And we don't even know the feature.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    'A large majority of modern TV-sets have this feature'. Others have not.
    What figures come to your mind in this case?

    And if the number is overwhelming (90% or more), can you call it "a large m."? Or 'overwhelming' or what else would be preferable?
    Welcome to the forum, Gfcat. :)
    As the others have said, "majority" = 51 percent or more; what is considered "large" can vary from one person to another, so calling a majority "large" doesn't say much (how do your readers know what you think is "large"?). If, in fact, 90 percent of TV sets (no hyphen) have the feature you're talking about, you could say "most" or "nine out of ten" or "almost all".
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Strictly speaking, "majority" = more than 50% (which might be 50.1% or 50.01%, or ...). But I agree with everyone that "large majority" can't be quantified as a fixed range.

    Ws:)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Large is a comparative term, it usually means great relative to what one would expect, to the norm, so if the usual majority is 52%, 59% would be a large majority.

    In the absence of a norm, the word is meaningless, and the question unanswerable.
     

    gfcat

    New Member
    russian
    Oh, thanx all! For keeping the thread alive, mainly;)
    But I'd like to ask about your "user experience", when hearing or saying such expressions. It's pretty obvious that any 'majority' can't come to a specific number. But it is a range (51-100%), and this range can be made more specific with adjectives, like 'overwhelming', 'large' and so on. And these adjectives are understood in a basically same way - otherwise they wouldn't be used at all.

    So, let's go in an opposite way)
    If you need to express figures with words (may be, you intend not to be clear enough, or you don't know exact numbers), which words would you choose to denote the following numbers:
    - a little over 50%
    - about 60%
    - about 70%
    - about 80%
    - about 90%
    - almost 100%

    would be any difference to name 60, 70 and 80?
    Let's say, we are talking not about TV sets, but about the forum visitors. Which part of them have ever asked a stupid question here and which have not (just two alternatives, no any other options - let's be radical;)

    I suspect that the actual figures for "a large majority" in English are exactly the same as in Russian. ;)
    Unfortunately, russian translation of "a large majority" has no sense to me (though it's present in dictionaries) - I've never met it in real Russian. We use just two basic gradations of 'majority' IRL - just "majority" and 'overwhelming'. So that's why I asked the question.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    The term, when used by a speaker, is vague and will vary from situation to situation and from speaker to speaker. Similarly when a listener hears the term, it will be interpreted as vague, vary from situation to situation (context etc) and also on what they know about how different speakers use the term. In other words, it's, well, vague. That's why on-one, including me, will likely be giving you anything other than vague answers. We know the next question would be "What's the quantitative difference between a large majority and a big majority?"! As TT said, if you provide a "norm", (that would represent a "context"), we might be able to narrow it down.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    [...] ... adjectives, like 'overwhelming', 'large' and so on. And these adjectives are understood in a basically same way [...]
    But as others have said throughout this thread, they aren't understood in the same way: the interpretation will vary not only according to context (elections or TV sets or ...?), but also from person to person according to the perception of a norm that each has in each context. There's a saying in English, "How long is a piece of string?": the underlying principle is similar for "How large is a large majority?"
    [...] - otherwise they wouldn't be used at all. [...]
    Being understood the same way by everyone isn't a prerequisite for words being used. If it were, a vast number of threads in this forum (maybe even a majority, though I don't know how large ;)) wouldn't exist — because many involve discussions on how people interpret words, often with varying points of view.
    [...] If you need to express figures with words (may be, you intend not to be clear enough, or you don't know exact numbers), which words would you choose to denote the following numbers: ... [...]
    Well, if I knew that something was about 60% (but I didn't know the exact number or I didn't want to be any more precise), the words I'd use would probably be "about sixty percent".

    Ws:)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I agree with everyone else about the impossibility of quantifying "a large majority".

    But I feel I ought also to say - and perhaps this isn't true for everyone - that, actually, the phrase "a large majority" sounds decidedly odd to me....
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Is that in general, Loob, or has it just gone funny on you after reading a dozen posts? ;)

    Would it sound odd to you in "The Conservatives won the election with a large majority"? — Well, perhaps it would, because large majorities are rare these days. So how about "The Conservatives won the election with a small majority"?

    Ws:)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The ngrams suggest that 'a large majority' is not unusual against other likely candidates, like 'a comfortable majority', or 'a great majority', and that, of these three, large has been the preferred adjective, in both AE and BE, since the early nineteenth centrury.
     

    gramman

    Senior Member
    Unfortunately, Russian translation of "a large majority" has no sense to me (though it's present in dictionaries) - I've never met it in real Russian. We use just two basic gradations of 'majority' IRL - just "majority" and 'overwhelming'. So that's why I asked the question.
    It would obviously be foolish of me to question your knowledge of the Russian language and its everyday use by native speakers, but your claim here interests me. I'm wondering why Russians don't use more than one term to describe "middling" majorities. I would not be surprised to find that English uses more words than other languages in general, but with so many choices for a moderate level of preponderance, like significant, clear, and, as TT mentioned, comfortable and great, I'm surprised that Russians don't use any of them.

    I can see where words like vast, huge, and enormous should be excluded because they're (more or less) synonymous with overwhelming. And by the same token, I would leave out narrow, slight, bare, simple, etc, as being (again, more or less) equivalent to an unmodified majority.

    Perhaps Russians don't like to be vague. ;)

    Allow me to politely mention that this forum discourages the use of terms like IRL (in real life). I had to look it up; I thought in would mean "in Russian language." :eek:
     
    Last edited:

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200102/23/eng20010223_63173.html
    To the disappointment of the government, the Duma voted by a large majority of 295 to ban the privatization of large enterprises without a special law, rejecting amendment to the Article 100 of this year's budget. The government is seeking to lift the ban for channeling more money to the sector of debt repayment.
    Apparently the Chinese know what a large majority is... :rolleyes:
     

    gfcat

    New Member
    russian
    I can see where words like vast, huge, and enormous should be excluded because they're (more or less) synonymous with overwhelming. And by the same token, I would leave out narrow, slight, bare, simple, etc, as being (again, more or less) equivalent to an unmodified majority.

    Perhaps Russians don't like to be vague. ;)
    Well, while Russian language peculiarities should not be the subject of this thread, let me answer. I suppose that the Russian language just has other ways to express vagueness. There is a number of adjectives, like significant, clear and comfortable, which are used with quantifiers, but they are not used with majority (in real life).
    As far as I see, almost all in this topic come to elections sooner or later. So, difference in election traditions in Russia and in the Western world may really be the case of 'majority' usage differences.

    So I agree with PaulQ that the Chinese must be among the best experts on this term) Only Northern Koreans should know better, though we should not come into political matters here, probably.

    The context of my initial question was an abstract of a kind of marketing analytics:
    a large majority of all connected TV sets sold in Western Europe implements the HbbTV standard
    And I tend to think that it must be closer to 50% than to 100% (60-70%, apparently) in this case, because the author might have reasons to make the figure seem higher (the article was placed on HbbTV standard website).
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    So I agree with PaulQ that the Chinese must be among the best experts on this term) Only Northern Koreans should know better, ...
    In the instance I quoted, the Chinese press was being objective and it gave you the answer to your question.

    1. You know that there are 450 members in the Duma.
    2. If, then there is a majority of 295, and
    3. If this majority is described as "large"
    then you will have an idea of what large means...
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    1. You know that there are 450 members in the Duma.
    2. If, then there is a majority of 295, and
    There is some ambiguity, by the way, over what this means. Does it mean 295 members were in favour and 155 against? I would normally expect "a majority of 295" to mean that 295 more members were in favour than against (and then an odd majority from an even electorate is impossible unless an odd number abstain). The result would have to be 77-x members against and 372-x in favour, with 1+2x members abstaining.
     

    gramman

    Senior Member
    Russian language peculiarities should not be the subject of this thread
    Well, except in the sense that you're asking about — the relative scarcity of words commonly used to describe majorities that are neither extremely large nor extremely small.
    … significant, clear and comfortable … are not used with majority (in real life)
    I understand.
    … this topic comes to elections sooner or later
    It needn't. I suppose it's reasonable to expect that the topic of elections would come up in a discussion of ways to describe majorities, but we can certainly keep the focus on your question: "an abstract of a kind of marketing analytics."

    Are you saying that words like significant, clear and comfortable are not used in Russian to describe majorities in any context? It seems that a very large number of things can be the subject of analysis here. We're concerned simply with how many of the elements of some group are on one side of a line or the other.

    Please understand what I'm trying to ask. I can see that you want to avoid the issue of "differences in election traditions in Russia and in the Western world." Let's say a population under consideration has one hundred elements. Seventy-five percent have a particular characteristic. How would Russians, in everyday life, describe that percentage?

    I suppose you're saying that whatever terms were used, they would not include a modified description of majority. But you understand the point made repeatedly here, that the English language expression "large majority" cannot be anything more than loosely quantified and even then will vary depending on context. In post #3, you referred to overwhelming as denoting "90% or more." I'd say that would be true in some cases, but not others.

    I don't mean to ramble on here, but let me try to briefly say that even native English speakers will typically be unsure what approximate percentage is meant by significant, clear, comfortable, or large. It would likely be something in the sixties or seventies, I suppose. If words like narrow or extremely large are used, then we'll know it's only a little more than fifty percent and probably more than ninety percent, respectively.

    I think we all understand your thought that "the author might have reasons to make the figure seem higher." After all, someone must know the exact figure that came out of this study, perhaps with some margin of error.
     
    Last edited:

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    In constitutions, majorities are usually set at greater than 50% and greater than 66.6%. Greater than 50% gives a simple majority; greater than 66.6% give an overwhelming majority, as each of choice A has been met with two choices of B.

    There is some ambiguity,
    "To the disappointment of the government, the Duma voted by a large majority of 295 to ban the privatization of large enterprises ..." is not ambiguous = 295 more members voted for the ban than voted against it.

    The alternative is "To the disappointment of the government, 295 members, a majority of the Duma voted to ban the privatization of large enterprises ..."
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    [...] "To the disappointment of the government, the Duma voted by a large majority of 295 to ban the privatization of large enterprises ..." is not ambiguous = 295 more members voted for the ban than voted against it.

    The alternative is "To the disappointment of the government, 295 members, a majority of the Duma voted to ban the privatization of large enterprises ..."
    That's an interesting point, Paul. In those two examples, the word "majority" itself has two separate meanings. In the first it's the difference between two given values; whereas in the second it's more than half of a given value.

    In the case of the 450-member Duma, a majority, by the first definition (and assuming no abstentions) can be any even number from 2 to 450 (cf Edinburgher's #19).
    With the second definition, a majority can be any integer from 226 to 450.

    So the answer to gfcat's question about "a large majority" depends on which meaning of majority is intended. In the above example, if it's a difference between votes for and against, with possibilities ranging from 2 to 450, then 230 might be called 'a large majority' (340 votes vs 110 votes). But if it's the total number of votes in favour, with possibilities from 226 to 450, then 230 wouldn't be 'a large majority' (230 votes vs 220 votes).

    Ws:)
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Of itself, "majority" is neutral, and, as you point out, it is how you use it that matters. The OP's question is parallel to the number of members of the Duma who voted against the motion (i.e. the more numerous group.). The OP says, "'A large majority of modern TV-sets have this feature'."
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Agreed that with the context subsequently clarified (TV sets), the meaning of gfcat's "majority" became clear. For the OP's original, broader question, "How would you quantify 'a large majority'?", future readers may also wish to take account of the alternative use of the word majority.

    Ws
    :)
     
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