Subject – Verb Agreement: “Plural vs. Singular”


4.  Indefinite pronouns:

(a) The verb is usually singular because the indefinite pronoun usually refers to a singular subject.  Indefinite pronouns such as “each, everyone, every one, everybody, anyone, anybody, someone, somebody, one, nobody, nothing, anything, everything, something, any and every” usually refer to a singular subject and take a singular verb. 


For example:

Ø     Each of the students is required to turn in the sign up sheet for after school program.

Ø     Each book and magazine in the library is sorted in alphabetical order.

Ø     Everyone shows up at Mary’s party.

Ø     Every one of the students has his own pace of studying.

Ø     Everybody shows up at Mary’s party.

Ø     Everything is under control.

Ø     Every student knows that it is bad to skip classes.

Ø     Every boy and girl loves to play.

Ø     Every man, woman and child needs love.

Ø     Anyone who signs up for the summer camp must pay the fee a week before the camp starts.

Ø     Anybody who signs up for the summer camp must pay the fee a week before the camp starts.

Ø     Anything that she touches turns into dust.

Ø     Any decision is better than no decision.

Ø     Someone is after the hidden treasure.

Ø     Somebody is after the hidden treasure.

Ø     Something sounds fishy.

Ø     One of the students was hurt by the Hurricane.

Ø     Nobody is perfect.

Ø     No one wants to be with her.

Ø     Nothing is perfect.


(b) When either and neither are subjects, they always take singular verbs


For example:

Ø     Either (one) of us is good at cooking.

Ø     Neither (one) of us is good at cooking.

Ø     I am indifference to the color of the shirts.  Either (one of the two) is fine for me. 


(c) However, words such as “all, none and some” may be singular or plural, according to the meaning.


For example:

Ø     Some of her findings turn out to be false.

Ø     Some of the milk was spilled on the floor. 

Ø     Some of the cake has been eaten before it is served.

Ø     None of us is ready to get in front of her and argue against her proposal.   

Ø     None of the medication saves her life.                      

Ø     None of the food prepared has been eaten. 

Ø     None of the books I ordered have been delivered.

Ø     All of the cake has been eaten.

Ø     All of the cakes were eaten.

Ø     All of us are sad to see you leave.



According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage on page 664

Clearly, then, none takes a singular verb when the writer thinks of it as singular, and plural when the writer thinks of it as plural.

For example:

None of them seems cast specifically disputable.  -- Tom Wicker, N.Y. Times Mag., 3 May 1964  

None of them were trying to learn how to write.  -- A. J. Liebling, New Yorker, 26 May 1956

Clearly none has been both singular and plural since Old English and still is.  The notion that it is singular only is a myth of unknown origin that appears to have arisen in the 19th century.  If in context it seems like a singular to you, use a singular verb; if it seems like a plural, use a plural verb.  Both are acceptable beyond serious criticism. 


According to (see link: )

Since NONE has the meanings “not one” and “not any,” some insist that it always be treated as a singular and be followed by a singular verb: The rescue party searched for survivors, but none was found.  However, none has been used with both singular and plural verbs since the 9th century.  When the sense is “not any persons or things” (as in the example above), 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.

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