none of them was/were

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Baffled007

New Member
English - UK
Hi guys and girls

Which of the following:-

1) While a number of amateurs worked out of the gym, none of them was instructed by Solly.

2) While a number of amateurs worked out of the gym, none of them were instructed by Solly.

I have just come across sentence (1) in a novel (The Power of One -- great book by the way). I can see why sentence (1) is grammatically correct, but would (2) also be okay? To my ear --I'm English-- (2) sounds far more natural.

Cheers

Baffled007
 
  • JustKate

    Senior Member
    It used to be that, in theory, none was always supposed to mean "not one," in which case was would be the correct verb. And no doubt some people still think that's the most correct. In practice, though, for a very long time it was also sometimes used to mean "not any," in which case, of course, were is correct. But all kinds of persnickety people now accept that none can mean either "not one" or "not any," so you get to pick your verb depending on your desired meaning. I suspect that I use it to mean "not any" far more often than I use it to mean "not one," so I agree that were sounds more natural. That doesn't make was incorrect, though.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    In practice, though, for a very long time it was also sometimes used to mean "not any," in which case, of course, were is correct.
    I suppose so, but not necessarily. I note that even though WRD's first definition of none uses "not any", it nevertheless uses the singular form in the example:
    not any of a particular class: none of my letters has arrived
    On the other hand my Webster, for its "not any" definition of none, gives three examples, two with plural, one with singular.
    That doesn't make was incorrect, though.
    Sure doesn't. Call me a stick-in-the-mud, but I definitely prefer was. I think what makes people baulk at using the singular is seeing it right next to the word "them".
     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    It is easy to understand none of as not one in this case but it is hard for me to understand it as not any in this case. Would you illustrate it a bit?
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    It is easy to understand none of as not one in this case but it is hard for me to understand it as not any in this case. Would you illustrate it a bit?
    "None of the dishes appealed to me."

    You can basically use it pretty much wherever you'd use "not any."

    And if you need a source, the one I used when I said a couple of years ago that none can be either singular or plural, depending on the meaning, was Garner's Modern American Usage.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    (1A) Did any of the dishes appeal to you?
    (1B) No, none of them did.

    (2A) Did one of the dishes appeal to you? (If so, which one?)
    (2B) No, not one of them did.

    Conversation (1) is much more natural sounding. The 'none' in (1B) therefore feels plural (though I haven't actually used a verb that shows the number).
     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you very much. JustKate and entangledbank. I mean I cannot think of a case in which none of refers to not any.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    It should be pointed out that none does not come from not any, but from nan (old English), which was used with either singular or plural verbs.
    Nan was used with a plural verb as long ago as in AD 888.

    If you really want to make it clear that you are talking about one person/thing then write no one ... was.
    Otherwise use either singular or plural, even if only one person/thing is involved.
     
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