Singular/plural - none

diogerepus

Senior Member
Korean
First, when we use "none", do we use a singular or plural verb after that?

None was interested in the topic.
None were interested in the topic.

And second, what about "none of"? When "none of" is followed by an uncountable noun, a verb is difinitely singular. Right? But when "none of" is followed by a plural countable noun like the following, which one is correct?

None of the people was interested in the topic.
None of the people were interested in the topic.

They have to be grammatically correct since I have to explain them in my TOEFL class.

Thank you guys.
 
  • roniy

    Senior Member
    ISRAEL: Fluent Hebrew ( Speak Russian, Learning English)
    diogerepus said:
    First, when we use "none", do we use a singular or plural verb after that?

    None was interested in the topic.
    None were interested in the topic.

    And second, what about "none of"? When "none of" is followed by an uncountable noun, a verb is difinitely singular. Right? But when "none of" is followed by a plural countable noun like the following, which one is correct?

    None of the people was interested in the topic.
    None of the people were interested in the topic.

    They have to be grammatically correct since I have to explain them in my TOEFL class.

    Thank you guys.

    I guess "was" is the correct one.
    because None is like nobody or something like that
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Grammar books will tell you that "none" is singular-- but use of a plural verb with it is so well-established in usage, the "correct" form sounds funny. We use the word analogously with "some," and that's the whole story.

    Some of us are going to the party-- there the plural verb is logical and "correct," and in fact it's required. The singular version would be "one of us is going to the party."

    "None of us" should be analogous to "one of us"-- it's logical, it's "correct," it's the way you should explain it to your students.

    But native speakers say "None of us are going to the party." If you used an is instead of are, it would sound strange-- possibly the situation is not so deteriorated in BE.

    If you're using a linking verb and a singular subjective correlative, you don't sound quite so weird using "correct" English.

    "She has lots of guys pursuing her, but none of them is Mr Right."
    .
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    diogerepus said:
    First, when we use "none", do we use a singular or plural verb after that?

    None was interested in the topic.
    None were interested in the topic.

    And second, what about "none of"? When "none of" is followed by an uncountable noun, a verb is difinitely singular. Right? But when "none of" is followed by a plural countable noun like the following, which one is correct?

    None of the people was interested in the topic.
    None of the people were interested in the topic.

    They have to be grammatically correct since I have to explain them in my TOEFL class.

    Thank you guys.

    Do you have access to Fowler's Modern English Usage?
    He explains it very well.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Fowler, 2nd ed.:

    "It is a mistake to suppose that the pronoun is singular only and must at all costs be followed by singuar verbs etc."
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    My old friends Evans and Evans have this to add:

    "The pronoun none is ordinarily used to make a negative statement about all the members of a certain group. A statement of this kind is essentially plural. But grammar is not logic, and gammatically the word may be either singular or plural."
     

    SpiceMan

    Senior Member
    Castellano, Argentina
    None of us is interested
    None of them are interested

    Doesn't depend on the speaker preference? XD

    possibly the situation is not so deteriorated in BE
    Oh. i've learned BE, and speak to a lot a americans... what a mess.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I'd like to add another Fowler quote:
    At all times since the reign of King Alfred the choice of plural or singular in the accompanyingverbs, etc, has been governed by the surrounding words or by the notional sense.
    Which suggests to me that you use either singular or plural depending on what sounds right:)

    That is not going to be easy to explain to your TOEFL class:D
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    None (no one) may take either a singular or plural verb. Guideline: If followed by a singular noun, treat it as a singular. If by a plural noun treat it as a plural.

    None (no one) was interested in the topic.
    None of the people (them) were interested in the topic.
     

    diogerepus

    Senior Member
    Korean
    river said:
    None (no one) may take either a singular or plural verb. Guideline: If followed by a singular noun, treat it as a singular. If by a plural noun treat it as a plural.

    None (no one) was interested in the topic.
    None of the people (them) were interested in the topic.

    I think we need to think "none" and "none of" separately. Your explanation makes sense when you talk about "none of". But not for "none". "None" is used with a singular verb in any case because there is no noun followed by, right? Apart from "none of", I want to know how predescriptive grammarians are treating "none".
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    diogerepus said:
    I want to know how predescriptive grammarians are treating "none".

    Please see posts 6, 7, and 9. If none of these makes it clear, you will be tormented to eternity.:)

    In short, descriptive grammarians say that there are two possible usages, and both are acceptable.

    Fifteen foreros have opinions. None is best.
    Fifteen foreros are thinking about this. None are sure of the answer.
     

    nycphotography

    Senior Member
    American English
    Once again I have to fall back on "what I would say" (and try to figure out why)

    I would always start with the plural verb, based on the "hearing" of the omitted group.

    None [of the singers] were very good.

    Then I would change it to the singular verb if the "expectation of the number of matches" is singular.

    None [of the singers] were coming. (one or more of them COULD be coming, therefore, plural).

    None [of them] was Mr Right. (There will only be one (or zero) Mr Rights, therefore singular)

    None [of the singers] was a soprano.
    None [of the singers] were sopranos.

    None were succeding.
    None was the winner. -- I would avoid this usage since it feels clumsy, and would use "nobody" instead.

    Now, these aren't offered as "proper rules", or "correct usage".
    This is just what I'm actually likely to say as a native speaker.
     

    nichec

    Senior Member
    Chinese(Taiwan)/English(AE)
    Hello to all:
    Oh, this is a hard one, isn't it? I thought very hard before I replied.

    After reading all the posts, I think I totally agree with foxfirebrand. Back in the school, we were always taught that "none" has to be followed by singular verbs all the time. But I do get a lot of plural usages when I'm talking to native speakers. So I somehow start to mix them a bit myself....

    Grammer is a tricky thing to us non native speakers....:D
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    None, to me, always relates to some aforementioned group and I would take my verb form from that.

    Are there any cars on the road?
    There are none. (any cars - a multiple quantity)

    Have we any bread left?
    There is none. (any bread, a singular quantity)
     

    renetta

    Senior Member
    Italy, Italian
    Hi would you please tell me if some of these constructions are not correct?

    None of us are/is

    Neither of us are/is

    Any of us are/is

    Anyone of us are/is

    Some of us are/is

    Someone of us are/is

    Either of us are/is

    If they are correct, which one would you prefer? Why?
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    None of us is because it's the same as not one of us is. However, you will hear none of us are EVERYWHERE. I often say it myself.

    It's the same with neither of us - same as not one nor the other. It should be is, but is very often are.

    Any of us is the same as any one of us, so it's is again, but you hear are all the time.

    Some of us are, never is.

    You can't say someone of us. You can say someone among us is.

    Either of us is. It's the same as saying either one of us
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Have a look at the WordReference dictionary entry for none.
    CLUCK HERE, or CLICK HERE when I correct the typo.

    If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you will find links to a number of threads discussing this topic.

    And in particular, I recommend this comment:
    At all times since the reign of King Alfred the choice of plural or singular in the accompanying verbs, etc, has been governed by the surrounding words or by the notional sense.
    Check out the links for the other words.

    Some are obvious, others have no clear answer.

    And please note that you have asked seven questions here. Some have very complex answers. For the sake of the sanity of your potential responders, I am closing this thread.

    If, after looking at the WordReference entries and links for these words you are still confused, please come back and ask us for help - on one word at a time:)
     
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    ilikeenglish

    Senior Member
    South Africa
    The original sentence is like that:
    Scientists have tried to come up with biological explanations for .... However, none were convincing enough ....

    Isn't "none was" more logically fit here?
    Though the dictionary says that both "were" and "was" may be used here.

    I still want to know which one is more frequent?
     

    Gordonedi

    Senior Member
    UK (Scotland) English
    Since "none" means "not one", the singular should be used.

    Quite often, however, the plural is used instead, as in the example you quoted.

    Both are understood. In some cases, the use of the singular can be seen as pedantic. :)
     

    petereid

    Senior Member
    english
    There is a whole philosophy attached to "None"
    "One" is singular, everything else which isn't "One" isn't singular.
    Most english people use "none" as a non singular quantity,
    None of them are going to work,
    None of them work.
    But, as always, it's never easy , "How many are there?" "There's none" or "There's hundreds" ,
    And I think this is lazyness rather than an attempt at correct grammar.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Hey all,

    I am currently reading "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, and I read the beginning of this sentence and it immediately was noted as wrong.

    The sentence is "None of us feels an obligation to disprove......" etc

    I read it once, and thought it was wrong, then I read it again, and wasn't so sure, and the more I read it the more I thought it was ok, but yet I knew it was wrong.

    Now I am confused and wondering what is right.

    "Us/we" - the verb "feel" in the first person plural is "feel" and I expected to see
    "None of us feel an obligation" - which I see as correct now, but I'm curious because of "None of us" like "No single one of us feels like" - in which it would be third person singular "one of".

    Ugh, I'm just confused now can someone clear this up for me please:)
     

    ireney

    Modistra
    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    As I see it it is correct since the subject of the verb is "none" or in other words "no person". "Of us" clarifies the group of people "none" is "part" of and therefore has no bearing on the verb form. That's my take at least.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Sorry for any disturbance caused while this thread was assembled from a number of previous discussions on the same topic.

    If you read through the thread I think you'll find that none may be either singular or plural depending on the context.
     

    lsp

    Senior Member
    NY
    US, English
    Alex, to many it sounds terrible, enough so to make the rule "flexible." But consider that it is a contraction of sorts from "no one," and when you insert that back into the place of none, you will hear the singular as correct , as it was originally intended.
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    I think we need to think "none" and "none of" separately. Your explanation makes sense when you talk about "none of". But not for "none". "None" is used with a singular verb in any case because there is no noun followed by, right? Apart from "none of", I want to know how predescriptive grammarians are treating "none".
    Goethe:
    "None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free."

    (None [no one] is more hopelessly enslaved than one who falsely believes he is free.)

    Thoreau:
    "None is so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm."
    (None is so old as one who has outlived enthusiasm.)

    Here "none" used as singular sounds a bit stiff, formal or "literary", but the principle is obvious.

    link
    "None is so rich or mighty that he can get along without it, and none is so poor that he cannot be made richer by it."

    "We've looked at many alternatives that people have suggested, but none is so clearly “right” that switching to it would be a good idea."

    No rules here, just exmamples based on rules that you will find almost everywhere.

    None is used as singular and plural.
     

    wannabebelge

    Senior Member
    English USA
    Ok, I know I am a native English speaker and this should be obvious, but I would like confirmation (someone is trying to convince me otherwise.)

    None show more advanced features.
    NOT None shows ...

    I'm even more certain if I change verbs:

    None have those features...
    NOT None has those features...

    Full sentence:
    At this time, none of them show features as advanced as those of our system.

    none of them =competitors' systems

    Is this sentence okay?

    Am I right? Please confirm...
     

    Poulette

    New Member
    US English
    Well, not exactly! You're both right! See the American Heritage Book of English Usage:

    << Excessive quoted text deleted by moderator. >>
    None has been used as both a singular and plural pronoun since the ninth century. << Excessive quoted text deleted by moderator. >> 1 Of course, the singular usage is perfectly acceptable. Whether you should choose a singular or plural verb depends on the effect you want. You can use either a singular or a plural verb in a sentence such as None of the conspirators has (or have) been brought to trial. However, none can only be plural when used in sentences such as None but his most loyal supporters believe (not believes) his story.
     
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    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    For me, both agreement patterns are acceptable. The Cambridge Grammar (p. 390) agrees:
    None (of the students) was present. = No student was present.
    None (of the students) were present. = No students were present.
    But why is this in the French forum, I wonder???
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    For emphasis, use none in the singular -"not a single one." Otherwise, use none in the plural meaning "not any."

    "None of them show" sounds good to me.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Today's thread has been added to the previous thread on the same topic.

    If you read through the thread I think you'll find that none may be either singular or plural depending on the context.
     

    englishinmadrid

    Banned
    England - English
    I wanted to get this clear also, and I believe I've now done so - see:
    none of them are/is

    Important note: IMHO the information given in the book Practical English Usage (something of a "bible" for many EFL people) is wrong. It talks about the singular/plural issue as being one of formality. I don't think so at all.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think this thread deserves an the occasional airing; it's got a bit dusty in the last two years. I meet a lot of people who think 'none' is singular always, yet any quick peep at literature and a medium dose of this thread should be enough to convince people that it can be either.
     

    JasonTaylor

    New Member
    ENGLISH
    <<deleted by moderator>> Usually I come to a site like this for only a minute or so because the answer to my question is simple and clear. Not today. Multiple threads, lots of disagreement.

    I think that Eugen and Cuchuflet’s friends are correct. “The pronoun none is ordinarily used to make a negative statement about all the members of a certain group. A statement of this kind is essentially plural.”

    Allow me to provide an example using cards on a table. Say a king and an ace are on the table, and 50 cards are stacked in a deck on the side. “None of the cards showing” is equivalent to “Zero of the cards showing”. Zero takes a plural verb in that case. So, e.g., “None of the cards are queens,” is correct. It means that “The 50 cards have a queen, but none of the ones that are on the table are queens.”

    Let’s take other situations. If there were only a king showing on the table, you wouldn’t be using “none” in the first place, but would instead say, “It is not a queen.” If there were 3+ cards, the same logic applies as with the 2-card scenario. So

    <<None almost always takes a plural verb: are/were.>>

    So why the confusion? Most of the comments in this thread opposing the above logic are similar to

    Since "none" means "not one", the singular should be used.
    or Emma42’s, who wrote,

    None of us is because it's the same as not one of us is.
    They are wrong because “not one of us is” is not the same as “one of us is not,” which is really where Emma42’s logic takes you if it were correct. “Not (that) one” is actually the infinite set of all objects in the universe (or in the case above, a subset of 50 cards not showing on the table) excluding the particular one that is the topic of discussion. I would very much hope that an infinite number of things is plural!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    If I am wrong on any point above, please take the time to post why.

    It is my opinion that Cuchuflet’s friends are, however, incorrect in saying, “But grammar is not logic, and grammatically the word may be either singular or plural,” because we in part dictate language‘s path, and logic should be used to break disagreements when possible, especially now that people can see this site via Google to understand the logic. And as it so happens, a Google search of “none of them are” and “none of them is” showed a somewhat even split echoing the above contradicting posts; people are very confused as to which is best.

    Are you on this page for the heck of it or did you come here to get guidance on how to write a sentence with the word none correctly? Most of us fall into the latter category. Our grade school teachers may have been right on this long ago, but not today. Over time, I predict a gradual decline of the singular form, as it is easy to ask Google this sort of question. Perhaps by 2011 or so, Webster’s will codify none as plural.

    Jason Taylor
    Bethesda Maryland USA
     
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    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    A person who wants a simple fixed answer to the question of whether none takes a singular or plural verb is in an unfortunate position. Current usage, as demonstrated by Google results and by the responses to this thread, show that there is no single rule. History teaches the same, as was said above.
    However, none has been used with both singular and plural verbs since the 9th century. When the sense is “not any persons or things” [...], the plural is more common: … none were found. Only when none is clearly intended to mean “not one” or “not any” is it followed by a singular verb: Of all my articles, none has received more acclaim than my latest one.​
    Source: "none." Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1).
    Random House, Inc. 17 May. 2009. http://dictionary1.classic.reference.com/browse/none.​
    It is certainly possible to construct a context that appears to show that none should be treated as plural, but who would generalize from a single context to an absolute rule? Other contexts discussed in the thread require that none be used with the singular verb. There are still others in which either the singular or the plural might be used.

    Anyone who looks to this forum for a single inflexible rule where the living language allows for, and even requires, flexibility, or who wants simple answers to grammatical questions that are still contested, will, indeed, be disappointed.
     

    mtmjr

    Senior Member
    English (US)
    I just did a quick Google search and it seems that this is a hotly debated topic. The New York Times stylebook apparently says it should take a plural noun, but others disagree.

    Colloquially, I find both of the following natural:

    None of us care.
    None of us are going.

    I find both "None of us cares" and "None of us is going" to sound quite strange to me. Clearly however, the grammar in each sentence is contradictory=/ Personally, I think your second option ("None of us give a darn.") preferable, but as I said initially, even grammarians are at odds in this case. Perhaps someone else can offer a better explanation...

    Edit: In considering it further, I think my unease comes about whenever the plural verb ends in "s" (any regular present tense verb). That is, I use the plural verb when it is "to have," "to do," or "to be," and the singular otherwise:

    None of us like to swim.
    None of us think you're qualified for office.
    BUT
    None of us have your keys.
    None of us were there.
    None of us do any sports.
     
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    loggats

    Member
    British English
    The situation came up because I wrote "None of us give a darn" (though I didn't use the word darn), then paused and wondered why I hadn't written "gives".
     

    mtmjr

    Senior Member
    English (US)
    None = not one, therefore,
    "None of us cares"
    "None of us is going."

    From the NYT Stylebook:

    "none. Despite a widespread assumption that it stands fornot one, the word has been construed as a plural (not any) in most contexts for centuries. H. W. Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926) endorsed the plural use. Make none plural except when emphasizing the idea of not one or no one — and then consider using those phrases instead."

    That said, I have a general problem with prescriptive grammar so rather than putting absolute faith in any "guide," I take all the controversy together to mean that there is no hard and fast rule. Thus, it's more a descriptive issue...and I have edited my initial post with my descriptive take on it:)
     
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    Pertinax

    Senior Member
    BrE->AuE
    This is one of those occasions where the inflection of the verb for number is unhelpful. Logically we might use a singular verb for one item, and a plural verb for more than one item, but zero fits neither category.

    The ngrams are also ambivalent:
    http://books.google.com/ngrams/grap...start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3

    With "none of us is/are", the plural verb was more popular until about 1926 (coincidentally the date of Fowler's Modern English Usage, although he was neutral on the question). The popularity of the singular verb has been rising since 1880, and currently holds a comfortable lead.

    The result for has/have similarly favours "has", do/does actually favours "do", while want/wants are neck and neck. Between give/gives, for some reason, "give" has always been more popular, but the sample-size is insignificant.
     
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    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage has the following on the etymology of none:

    The Old English nan "none" was in fact formed from ne "not" and an "one," but Old English nan was inflected for both singular and plural. Hence it never has existed in the singular only.

    Thus the etymology gives no comfort to those who insist that none must take a singular verb.
     
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