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  1. #1
    poorboy_9's Avatar
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    Question None- plural or singular?

    The assignment from the book says to correct the sentence:
    All of them are smoking.
    Since no one in the picture is smoking, would the correction be:
    a) None of them are smoking.
    b) None of them is smoking.

    As a teacher, I had one answer; my student had another. Are there times "none" is classified as singular, and other times as plural?
    "Old fashioned-ly confused", B.

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    Re: None- plural or singular?

    When individuality is being emphasized (that is, ‘not one’), a singular form of the verb is used:

    “She is difficult to describe physically - none of her features is particularly striking.”
    (That is, of all her facial features, not one is striking.)

    When you are considering things as a collective group (the notion of a sub-group within a larger group), use the plural:
    “She had many boyfriends and love affairs in her younger years, but none were very serious.”


    In your sentence, whether a singular or plural verb is used depends on the author's perspective:
    If the intention is to indicate that there was no sub-group of smokers in the group; OR, that while many or all may smoke (and it is no longer PC to depict people smoking), no one has a cigarette or pipe in the picture, then "None of them are smoking."


    If to indicate and emphasize that there was not a single person in that group who is shown to be a smoker, then "None of them is smoking."
    Last edited by David L.; 12-Jul-2009 at 12:00.

  3. #3
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    Re: None- plural or singular?

    David L., Thanks for your quick response. I have a question with your second example.

    "None of the other tables was occupied"

    Could one also say "none of the other tables were occupied", and still be gramatically correct?
    Would this elicit a different meaning, if you were speaking singularly or collectively about the tables?
    Slightly less confused, B.

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    Re: None- plural or singular?

    Yes.
    But you will note that on reflection, I edited my post, omitting two sentences used as examples, to keep the distinction clear...
    ... and used your own sentence to indicate how either a singular or plural verb could be appropriate for the same sentence.

  5. #5
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Re: None- plural or singular?

    The use of a plural verb after "none" is sometimes deprecated; but the OED suggests that the verb can be singular or plural.

    MrP

    Not a professional ESL teacher.

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