Can You Have 'A Vast Majority'?


“Isn’t ‘a vast majority’ an abomination of an expression?” Jeff in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., wants to know. It’s not the “vast” part that has Jeff curious. It’s the “the” part.

Hear him out: “In any group or set there has to be a number that’s the majority, right? If 100,000 people were surveyed and 60,000 agreed with a certain proposition, it wouldn’t be correct to say, ‘A vast majority of those surveyed agreed with XYZ proposition,’ would it?

Because there aren’t two or multiple majorities within the group on that proposition, only one majority. And that would be ‘the’ majority, not ‘a’ majority. Do you agree?”

Jeff has a point about the logic of using “the.” Articles like “a” and “the” indicate whether the nouns they modify are specific or just one in a crowd. But that doesn't mean your options are limited, as I explain in this recent column.

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