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When “most is” and when “most are”?

I am having a dilemma here...

"Most of the world thinks I'm awesome. The rest have not met me yet." - the rest of the world has not met me yet, so I'd think it's "has", but a friend of mine used "have" - could he actually be right?

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I think it can work both ways. But the least you can do is be consistent. So if you use "thinks", go with "has". Or use "think" and "have". –  Mr Lister Nov 13 '12 at 17:14
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But now I think about it, I'd do the plural, "think" and "have", since you obviously mean "the people of the world" with "world". –  Mr Lister Nov 13 '12 at 17:17
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marked as duplicate by Robusto, Mr. Shiny and New 安宇, Daniel, StoneyB, Mark Beadles Nov 14 '12 at 15:41

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2 Answers

'The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’ has this to say on the matter:

Noun phrases that act as quantifiers can take either singular or plural agreement . . . As elsewhere when there are agreement options, the singular verb seems to invoke the set, whereas the plural verb makes us aware of the individual items in it.

What this means for your example is that you should use the singular verb, as you have in the first sentence, if you want to emphasise the rest of the world as a unified mass, but the plural verb if you want to emphasise the fact that it is made up of individual people.

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That is a great answer! Thank you. –  Omri Nov 13 '12 at 17:51
    
Entirely correct, but how could the first actually fit in OPs example? "World, meet Omri. Omri, this is the rest of the world." –  TimLymington Nov 13 '12 at 18:20
    
@TimLymington. That depends on the degree of vanity of the speaker. –  Barrie England Nov 13 '12 at 18:24
    
I’m not sure that “the rest” used in a way that references a count noun can ever be singular. “The rest of us/them/my kids” seems always to require the plural, and eliding the “of XXX” part does not change that. –  tchrist Nov 13 '12 at 19:10
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@tchrist. On the whole, yes, but I think the rest has not met me yet would be possible in the OP's example to match the singular in the preceding sentence. –  Barrie England Nov 13 '12 at 21:22
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There is a difference in meaning in the usage of rest in "rest" and in "rest of the world". In the 1st instance, "rest" has a plural connotation (as in, "rest" could include lot of worlds and not just this world and hence it's ambiguous in its scope) and hence "have"; while in the 2nd instance, it refers to the whole world as one singular entity and hence "has".

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You have a good point, even if it takes a moment to fully realize and understand your answer. Many thanks for a quick reply! –  Omri Nov 13 '12 at 17:54
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