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  1. #1
    cherin is offline Newbie
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    Question "everyone" singular? plural?

    I came across the following on http://www.schneier.com/crypto-gram-0506.html#10.

    *****
    Everyone -- except those who like peace and quiet -- thinks it's a good idea to allow cell phone calls on airplanes, and are working out the technical details.
    *****

    My question is what is the subject of the verb "are" in the above sentence.

    Can "Everyone" be the subject of the plural verb "are"?
    If so, it would mean that the writer says "everyone are working the technical details", and I think it's strange. Because everyone should not be the technical engineers or staff in such a field.

    Or should there be the subject such as "they" or "we" before "are", but is omitted.
    If so, can the subjects be omitted like this in common English sentences?

    The alternative idea is that the subject of the verb "are" is "the technical details", a case of anastrophe.

    Anyway I'm not sure.
    I'd appreciate your kind advice.

  2. #2
    mykwyner is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: "everyone" singular? plural?

    We are witnessing a change taking place in the English language where the indefinite pronouns each, any, anyone, everyone and everybody that were once always considered singular are now becoming plurals. This is happening because English does not have a gender non-specific personal pronoun to go with the indefinite pronoun when it functions as an antecedent.

    Look at these examples:

    Everyone should have his book.
    This is the way that I learned to write this sentence. Feminists objected to being called "he," so now the fashionable way to say this to a mixed-gender audience is:
    Everyone should have their book.

    So now, each person will drive their (not his) own car. Anyone who wants their (not his) picture taken should be here early.

    Even though the example you cited about the cell phones does not have this gender issue, it is nonetheless a victim of this ongoing change from singular to plural indefinite pronouns. If you are writing a paragraph like this, use "most people," "many airline passengers" or something other than "everyone." In language, like many things, avoidance is a good way to deal with controversy.

  3. #3
    cherin is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: "everyone" singular? plural?

    Mykwyner, thank you for your kind reply.

    I understand what you explain and that gender non-specific pronouns are preferable.

    I still have a question. The writer of the sentence I quoted is saying "everyone thinks that it is a good idea to allow cell phone calls on airplanes, and everyone are working out the technical details"?

    The people who thinks it is a good idea to use cell phones on airplanes are not be the same as those who are working out the technical details to implement the idea, I think. Correct?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: "everyone" singular? plural?

    Quote Originally Posted by cherin
    I still have a question. The writer of the sentence I quoted is saying "everyone thinks that it is a good idea to allow cell phone calls on airplanes, and *everyone are working out the technical details"?
    The missing pronoun is "they",

    Everyone thinks it's a good idea to allow cell phone calls on airplanes, and [they] are working out the technical details.

    Consider,

    everyone = a group
    everyone in the group = they

    Everyone [in the group, they,] who think it's a good idea to allow cell phone calls on airplanes are the same group of people, they, who are working out the technical details to implement the idea.

  5. #5
    cherin is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: "everyone" singular? plural?

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    Everyone [in the group, they,] who think it's a good idea to allow cell phone calls on airplanes are the same group of people, they, who are working out the technical details to implement the idea.
    Thank you, Casiopea.
    Now I understand better.

    So this is not a case of anastrophe? I wonder if the writer wanted to say "the technical details are workign out", but he made the subject/verb inversed.

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    Default Re: "everyone" singular? plural?

    Quote Originally Posted by cherin
    Thank you, Casiopea.
    Now I understand better.

    So this is not a case of anastrophe? I wonder if the writer wanted to say "the technical details are workign out", but he made the subject/verb inversed.
    Inversion? I don't see it. Could you show me?

    Anastrophe is when the normal syntactic order is altered for emphasis (click here for examples:
    http://humanities.byu.edu/rhetoric/F...nastrophe.htm).

    What we have in our '. . .are. . .' example is a missing or rather omitted subject. That's all.

  7. #7
    cherin is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: "everyone" singular? plural?

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    Inversion? I don't see it.

    What we have in our '. . .are. . .' example is a missing or rather omitted subject. That's all.

    I was a bit confused. Now everything is clear to me.
    Thank you so much!

  8. #8
    JJM Ballantyne is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: "everyone" singular? plural?

    Actually, the use of a "singular they" in this way is nothing new in English; Shakespeare used it - and so did Jane Austen.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: "everyone" singular? plural?

    Quote Originally Posted by cherin
    My question is what is the subject of the verb "are" in the above sentence.
    It's implied [they]:
    Everyone thinks it's a good idea to allow cell phone calls on airplanes, and [they] are working out the technical details.
    The pronoun 'everyone' is singular in number;i.e., every + one (singular noun), but when it comes to semantics, 'everyone' refers to more than one person. The alternative, a singular pronoun, [s/he] or [he] or [she], is peculiar:
    Everyone thinks it's a good idea to allow cell phone calls on airplanes, and ?[s/he] is working out the technical details.

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