Grammar Police. 'None is' or 'None are'?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by commonpeople, Mar 9, 2006.

  1. commonpeople macrumors regular

    Nov 9, 2004
    This topic came up in one of the other threads today.
    I've seen lots of convincing arguments, but which is correct?
    Is there a difference between US and British English in this regard?
  2. virus1 macrumors 65816


    Jun 24, 2004
    this is just sad. it depends on the context. are is for plural, is is for singular. this is not difficult people!
  3. SamIchi macrumors 68030


    Aug 1, 2004
    You tell'em!
  4. cslewis macrumors 6502a


    Jul 23, 2004
    40º27.8''N, 75º42.8''W
    I'm not a grammar whiz, but I'd say 'none are'.
  5. commonpeople thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 9, 2004
    'None' is the subject. How can 'none' be plural?
  6. Heb1228 macrumors 68020


    Feb 3, 2004
    Virginia Beach, VA
    I can't think of an instance where "none" would refer to a singular antecedent. (I'd be happy to be proven wrong, I just can't think of any off hand.) So it would be 'none are.' But I can't speak to whether this is different in England.
  7. devilot Moderator emeritus


    May 1, 2005
    Sounds right to me....

    "None [of those sweaters] are blue."
  8. theviceofreason macrumors newbie

    Mar 9, 2006
    Long-time reader, first-time poster. I don't really have much expertise where macs are concerned, but i've been browsing here ever since I decided I wanted a powerbook G5 ;)
    However, this stuff is more my line of work

    Anyhoo, from the OED (as good a reference as any):


    • pronoun 1 not any. 2 no one.

    • adverb (none the) with comparative by no amount: none the wiser.

    — USAGE Some traditionalists maintain that none can only take a singular verb (as in none of them is coming tonight rather than none of them are coming tonight). However, none is descended from Old English nan meaning ‘not one’, and has been used for around a thousand years with either a singular or a plural verb, depending on the context and the emphasis needed."

    As for a singular example, how about "To get the PBG5 to market, Apple could have made it from asbestos, made it five inches thick and stuffed it with fans, or just enclosed a free bag of ice with every unit, none of which is an acceptable solution."

    It can be 'none is' or 'none are', and anyone interested enough to post in a thread about it is probably going to choose the right one for the context.
  9. SamIchi macrumors 68030


    Aug 1, 2004
    "None of the prisoners was given his soup. It is true that none is etymologically derived from the Old English word n, “one,” but the word has been used as both a singular and a plural noun from Old English onward. The plural usage appears in the King James Bible as well as the works of John Dryden and Edmund Burke and is widespread in the works of respectable writers today. Of course, the singular usage is perfectly acceptable. "

    Behold! The power of the!

    I thought it was only used in the plural sense but I guess singular is acceptable too.
  10. CorvusCamenarum macrumors 65816


    Dec 16, 2004
    Birmingham, AL
    Correct usage #1: None of the bread is fresh. (Singular noun "bread" takes singular conjugation)

    Correct usage #2: None of the loaves of bread are fresh. (Plural noun "loaves" takes plural conjugation)

    Look at whatever your "none" is referring to; if it can't be broken down into smaller parts (bread, people, etc), use the singular. If it can, use the plural.
  11. devilot Moderator emeritus


    May 1, 2005
    Thanks. I appreciate such a clear cut example of the 'singular' use.
  12. kiwi-in-uk macrumors 6502a

    Sep 22, 2004
    Brought direct to you from the OSX dictionary ...

    "USAGE It is sometimes held that none can take only a singular verb, never a plural verb:: none of them is coming tonight, rather than | none of them are coming tonight. There is little justification, historical or grammatical, for this view. None is descended from Old English n?n, meaning ‘not one,’ and has been used for around a thousand years with both a singular and a plural verb, depending on the context and the emphasis needed."

    So ... both "is" or "are" would be correct.
  13. commonpeople thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 9, 2004
    That seems like a good authority. I've always been confused about this since my english teacher (15 yrs ago) told us that 'none are' is correct on the somewhat reasonable grounds that 'none' should be singular.

    Even if none is a contracted version of 'not-one', it is still not obviously a singular or plural. Plus- just to throw the spanner in the works- isn't 'not-one' synonymous with any value which isn't unity- i.e. 4.5 is 'not-one'.

    Anyway- I think I'm satisfied that 'none are' is safe to use, even in the US.

  14. thedude110 macrumors 68020


    Jun 13, 2005
    More here.

    Grammar, of course, is a fraud. If it sounds better, it'll be that way ...
  15. amateurmacfreak macrumors 6502a


    Sep 8, 2005

    It's an indefinate pronoun, so it can be plural or singular.
    How can it be plural? It's determined by what it's referring to. If I'm referring to one thing it's "none is," if to multiple things it's "none are."
    I wouldn't say "none of the people is blue." I know it should be "are" because it's referring to people, which is plural.
    For singular it would be "None of the person is blue."
  16. Heb1228 macrumors 68020


    Feb 3, 2004
    Virginia Beach, VA
    I agree... I was clearly proven wrong on this one. Thinking about it being a shortened form of "not one" makes it much easier to see the singular usage.
  17. theviceofreason macrumors newbie

    Mar 9, 2006
    That should always be lesson 1.
  18. Neb154 macrumors member

    Feb 2, 2006
    None [of which] is.. works

    None is.. doesn't work.

    I rest my case on the "none is" not working.

    None are.. works without anything added.
  19. Heb1228 macrumors 68020


    Feb 3, 2004
    Virginia Beach, VA
    This makes sense too! I'm changing my mind back to my original answer!:eek:

    Whenever you use 'is,' none needs a modifier... like 'none of the conspirators is' (to use an earlier example) thus making the verb refer to the group, hence plural.
  20. ibook30 macrumors 6502a


    Jun 4, 2005
    2,000 light years from home
    Like Heb1228- I appreciate this.

    Clever comment of the day.:D

    Perhaps expand on it with :

    "Gammer is a frawd - Speling is wear it's at"
  21. pseudobrit macrumors 68040


    Jul 23, 2002
    Jobs' Spare Liver Jar

    You can use it as "none is" in that sequence.

    Let's give it a go, off the top of my head:

    In these instances, none is referring to a singular of "not one" where the plural would not fit because of the context.

    It's exclusive in describing "none" as one specific object.
  22. MrSmith macrumors 68040


    Nov 27, 2003
    Au contraire.

    "Which part of this cheese is still edible?"
    "None is."

    It does work.
  23. CompUser Guest

    I don't see how it would be singular.

    Q: "Are the sweaters red"
    A: "None of them are red"

    Are is none is talking about the sweaters, which is plural, so then by my rules "none" is plural.
  24. iGuy macrumors member

    Mar 12, 2004
    Star Trek

    'Where no man has gone before. --> Where no one has gone before.

    could be read as --> Where none have gone before.

    clearly none = no one, in this case

    English is full of exceptions. Even for the English. :)

    As for the use in England of using single nouns to refer to compound nouns as in Apple vs. Apple's employees, colloquial (localised) usage does not change its correctness. If that means that I am saying that all those who speak English in England are wrong, then they are wrong. However, having been born there I can assure everyone that not all people living in England and speaking Englsih make this mistake.

    Also, given the large number of dialects in the country, it is folly to assume that usage in England is gramatically correct. Those who are old enough may recall that the BBC originally refused to air Seseme Street because it thought the quality of language used in the show was bellow par. At that time the BBC had a mandate to improve the quality of the language through example. This implies that the BBC recognized the poor use of the language throughout the country. So whoever is sighting European usage as an excuse for simply bad grammer, go learn a thing or two before being so arogant as to assume that if you and your peers do it, it must be correct.

    As for Canadians, of which I am also one, we consistently waver back and forth between the English and American, never really knowning which particular influence we are sprouting at any given time.

    Twenty years ago our influence was mostly European and thus we were taught the language with a more European flavour. Today, however, we are constantly bombarded by American programming and the usage has slipped, albeit sadly, to a flavour more American in nature. This slip toward American is also a result of new immigrants with little or no English skills who learn their Englsih from television programming which is mostly American.

    And lastly, for those who don't know any better, you have sugery. Not a surgery. Not three surgeries. But sugergy.

    Just one more sad day for the Empire. Rule Britannia!


    p.s. this outburst, although regretably emotional, is not intended to offend, but enlighten, if anyone is offended, sobeit, i'm done with this thread :D

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