The majority (were/was) young students, but some were middle-aged citizens looking for menial employment."
Great question. The majority was. The people were. It is a matter of singular and plural. I see that others have explained as much already in this thread.
It does have every thing to do with singular or plural subjects, but tense must also be considered in order to understand when to use were vs. was (both past tense forms of be
). So, if you break up your sentence, Jonathan, and identify the subject in the first part (students<plural), then we know we have to use the past tense plural
which is were
Did I explain that right? Hmmm. OK, think about it in first, second, or third person - (I, you, it -singular, or we, you, they - plural).
I was, you are, it is < all singular states of "being" in the present. (
I was, you were, it was < all singular states of "being" in the past.
Since your students were
plural but are now
singular, they were
the majority but are now
the minority. Now, a single student is leaving because she is tired...I wish she wasn't.
The most important clue will be the status of your subject, be careful about identifying it correctly.
"Sometimes while filling out papers, I sat back and wondered about all these people.
Ok...now..."while filling, I sat." Is there something wrong here??
I know that wasn't your question, so I am stepping away from the keyboard! ;)