an overwhelming majority

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VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
Worker-Bolsheviks indubitably occupied the front ranks in the movement, and here as in the decisive days of February an overwhelming majority of the workers followed them.
The History of the Russian Revolution by Leon Trotsky

An indefinite article is used because of the adjective "overwhelming" modifying the noun. If there had not been an adjective before majority in the sentence, it'd have looked like "in the decisive days of February the majority of the workers followed them".
Am I right?
Thanks.
 
  • lapdwicks

    Senior Member
    Sinhala
    Why can't we use an indefinite article there too as " a majority?

    As I think , it will be better as in the following way.

    An indefinite article is used because of the adjective "overwhelming" modifying the noun. If there had not been an adjective before
    majority in the sentence, it'd have looked like "in the decisive days of February a majority of the workers followed them".

    Dear native speakers. Please comment.

    Thanks
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hello, Vik and lapdwicks. You could use either the indefinite or the definite article in that phrase, and it would look normal to me: the overwhelming majority/an overwhelming majority When I read about "overwhelming majorities", I usually see the indefinite article. There isn't always a clear distinction in function between definite and indefinite articles, and your example is a good example of that idea.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Hello owlman. But "overwhelming majorities" is the plural, how can it take an indefinite article?
    I think lapdwicks' suggestion about using "a majority of the workers" is wrong because the "majority" is defined by "workers". Am I right?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hello owlman. But "overwhelming majorities" is the plural, how can it take an indefinite article?
    I think lapdwicks' suggestion about using "a majority of the workers" is wrong because the "majority" is defined by "workers". Am I right?
    I wasn't suggesting that the plural "overwhelming majorities" needs an article, Vik. I was remarking that both "an overwhelming majority" and "the overwhelming majority" are both normal phrases and that there is no clear need to choose an indefinite rather than a definite article in that phrase. Lapdwick's "a majority of the workers" is indeed a normal phrase.

    Article use often troubles people whose first language doesn't use articles. I know of no easy way for those people to learn how to use them. You might consider reading what different grammar sources have to say on the topic.
     

    lapdwicks

    Senior Member
    Sinhala
    I think lapdwicks' suggestion about using "a majority of the workers" is wrong because the "majority" is defined by "workers".
    Dear Vik,

    Suppose,

    There is a parcel of books on the table.

    Do you think whether this has to be written as " there are parcels ................" because the parcel contains books (a plural noun)?

    As far as I know, it should be as "a family of five members is ...........", but not, a family of five members are ........, shouldn't it?
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Lapdwick's "a majority of the workers" is indeed a normal phrase.
    Am I right that "the majority of the workers" describes the very fact of someone's majority, while "a majority of the workers" implies that it's just a type of majority (a slim/narrow/large/huge etc majority) ?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Am I right that "the majority of the workers" describes the very fact of someone's majority, while "a majority of the workers" implies that it's just a type of majority (a slim/narrow/large/huge etc majority) ?
    That notion sounds right to me, Vik, but I'm not sure how well the idea will guide you as you wander through a language like English that uses articles frequently.

    Once again, there's not always a clear distinction in function between definite and indefinite articles. There are many situations in which using either type of article would be reasonable and unnoticeable to native speakers. Unfortunately, we native English-speakers are guided by instinct, and that instinct probably develops over many years of hearing others use the articles in their speech. Of course, that doesn't help you any, and you probably need some set of rules to memorize that can help you with your own doubts about which type of article is suitable.

    Here is the clearest guide to articles that I have ever seen: articles I certainly hope that you read it and find it useful.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    That notion sounds right to me, Vik, but I'm not sure how well the idea will guide you as you wander through a language like English that uses articles frequently.

    Once again, there's not always a clear distinction in function between definite and indefinite articles. There are many situations in which using either type of article would be reasonable and unnoticeable to native speakers. Unfortunately, we native English-speakers are guided by instinct, and that instinct probably develops over many years of hearing others use the articles in their speech. Of course, that doesn't help you any, and you probably need some set of rules to memorize that can help you with your own doubts about which type of article is suitable.

    Here is the clearest guide to articles that I have ever seen: articles I certainly hope that you read it and find it useful.
    Thank you.:)
    Dear Vik,

    Suppose,

    There is a parcel of books on the table.

    Do you think whether this has to be written as " there are parcels ................" because the parcel contains books (a plural noun)?

    As far as I know, it should be as "a family of five members is ...........", but not, a family of five members are ........, shouldn't it?
    I think "of books" in "a parcel of books" modifies "a parcel" (so, no 'the' is needed). And I think "there are parcels" is in the plural because there is more than one parcel of books, not because of the plural of 'books'.
    The example with "family" seems to be a bit different because the "family" is a collective noun.
    (if I've correctly understood what you meant)
     
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