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  1. man of manners's Avatar
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    #1

    Question tag None of the boys was/were clever...

    Hi!
    This is a new thread in which we will discuss some problematic sentences that need suitable question tags.
    The sentence is:
    None of the boys was/were clever,........?
    As for me, I think the answer will differ:
    None of the boys were clever, were they?
    None of the boys was clever, was he?
    Thanks in advance!

    I am not a teacher, but you can trust my answers only if you feel convinced. If not, keep asking till you finally find what you want *The Truth*.

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    #2

    Re: Question tag None of the boys was/were clever...

    A funny thing happened when I imagined someone saying None of the boys was clever: I heard it in a Cockney accent. In that dialect, was is commonly used for the third-person plural. I naturally heard was they? as the question tag.

    This reinforced my conviction that none is usually plural. Thus, were is the natural choice in both parts of the sentence - unless, perhaps, you're in London.
    I am not a teacher.

  2. man of manners's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Question tag None of the boys was/were clever...

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    This reinforced my conviction that none is usually plural.
    Yes, informally [more commonly, indeed] but formally it is used with a singular verb. Shouldn't we apply the subject-verb agreement when it is singular, in formal contexts, by using: "None of the boys was clever, was he?" just as what we did with "Many a man/Every man"?
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 07-Aug-2016 at 10:48. Reason: Removed unnecessary boldface
    I am not a teacher, but you can trust my answers only if you feel convinced. If not, keep asking till you finally find what you want *The Truth*.

  3. Piscean's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Question tag None of the boys was/were clever...

    Quote Originally Posted by man of manners View Post
    "None of the boys was clever, was he?"
    That's fine. The problem comes when the gender is unknown, as in 'None of the students was clever'. Probably most native speakers would go for 'None of the students were clever, were they?'

  4. man of manners's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Question tag None of the boys was/were clever...

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    That's fine. The problem comes when the gender is unknown, as in 'None of the students was clever'. Probably most native speakers would go for 'None of the students were clever, were they?'
    I was about to ask about this. Big thanks!
    I am not a teacher, but you can trust my answers only if you feel convinced. If not, keep asking till you finally find what you want *The Truth*.

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    #6

    Re: Question tag None of the boys was/were clever...

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    This reinforced my conviction that none is usually plural. Thus, were is the natural choice in both parts of the sentence - unless, perhaps, you're in London.
    Quote Originally Posted by man of manners View Post
    Yes, informally [more commonly, indeed] but formally it is used with a singular verb. Shouldn't we apply the subject-verb agreement when it is singular, in formal contexts, by using: "None of the boys was clever, was he?" just as what we did with "Many a man/Every man"?
    Formally or informally, none can be singular or plural. Fusty grammarians tried to limit it to the singular use they had invented for it, but that was the sort of rule up with which the language refused to put.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 07-Aug-2016 at 10:48. Reason: Edited quote to match original
    I am not a teacher.

  5. man of manners's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Question tag None of the boys was/were clever...

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    Formally or informally, none can be singular or plural.
    But the Oxford Learner's Dictionary says that a singular verb is used in a formal style inn Br.E.
    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    that was the sort of rule up with which the language refused to put.
    The words in red are part of a style which is correct but it made me laugh.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 07-Aug-2016 at 10:48. Reason: Removed unnecessary boldface
    I am not a teacher, but you can trust my answers only if you feel convinced. If not, keep asking till you finally find what you want *The Truth*.

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    #8

    Re: Question tag None of the boys was/were clever...

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    Formally or informally, none can be singular or plural. Fusty grammarians tried to limit it to the singular use they had invented for it, but that was the sort of rule up with which the language refused to put.
    Quote Originally Posted by man of manners View Post
    But the Oxford Learner's Dictionary says that a singular verb is used in a formal style inn Br.E.
    It can be, and a few readers might find fault with a plural usage. The highly-esteemed British journal The Economist persists in avoiding split infinitives, not because they think there's anything wrong with them, but because, as their style guide notes, they receive a flurry of complaints whenever they print one. The plural use of none is in the same category of made-up faults.
    I am not a teacher.

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