Ask Luís! (#8): “A maior parte” vs. “A maioria”

Hi, everyone! Here’s an always very pertinent, interesting question from Yuliya:

Olá, Luís!

Queria saber se há uma diferença entre as “a maioria” e “a maior parte”?

Por exemplo na frase “Hoje em dia a maioria (a maior parte) das pessoas usa telemóvel”?

Obrigada. Yuliya

First of all, I’ll have to apologize for how long it took me to write this down; the last few months have been quite busy for me, but I’ll try to make sure I’m more present for the blog as well!

Regarding your questions, there doesn’t seem to be a difference between the two; I’ve checked a few articles (which you can find below) and they seem to agree that both forms are correct and equivalent. It’s hard to guess why people use one over the other in different circumstances; sometimes is just habit and/or trying to vary your speech.

In any case, using either one is correct when you’re talking about an indefinite number of people/things who form a majority; I’d only point out is that qualified majorities (i.e. with adjectives attached) should always be written with [a] maioria (and without “de”); for example, [a] maioria parlamentar (parliamentary majority). In this case, maioria is a definite noun and not an abstract reality; a maior parte [do/da/dos/das] (just like a maioria [do/da/dos/das]) is a fixed indefinite expression – it is followed by a noun and never attached to an adjective.

There are however some doubts about how these types of nominal structures should agree with the verb, though; since we’re using the singular to represent a collective (i.e. more than one person), most grammarians would say the verb should stay in the singular (as in your example – a maioria (a maior parte) usa). Only in cases where the action can be attributed to each and every individual member of the group (or when you want to stress that aspect) can you place the verb in the plural, but when in doubt, just keep it in the singular.

Good luck with your studies :)

Sources:

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