Published: 12th April 2021
English Blues: Is it ‘none is’ or ‘none are’, which is grammatically correct?
Should none be followed by a singular or plural verb? Let's look at its grammatical correctness
Officials justified the deletion of the names of 19 persons saying that ‘Veda Nilayam’ was no more a private property as the state government had taken over. Moreover, none of them are residing there at present. (TOI)
In the sentence, “Moreover, none of them are residing there at present,” the word none is followed by a plural verb. Is it grammatically correct? Should none be followed by a singular or plural verb? Let’s look at the grammaticalness of it. As the word none means no one and has a singular sense, grammarians used to insist that the verb that followed none must be singular. Modern grammarians say that the word none can have either a singular or plural meaning and therefore, can be followed either by a singular verb or a plural verb. Look at these examples:
1. None of the money has been touched.
2. None of the cake was eaten.
3. None of the work has been completed.
4. None of the teachers have been paid there salary.
5. None of the doctors are satisfied.
6. None of the female candidates have submitted their project proposals.
7. None of them expects miracles to happen.
8. None of the doors is painted.
In the first three examples, the words money, cake and work are non-count nouns which are treated as singular nouns. Therefore, the phrases none of the money, none of the cake, none of the work require singular verbs. In the example sentences 4 and 5, the words teachers and doctors are count nouns and they have a plural sense. Therefore, the phrases none of the teachers and none of the doctors require plural verbs.
In the example sentence 6, the word their in the sentence prevents us from using a singular verb after the phrase none of the candidates as it indicates plural. Therefore, it is incorrect to say, None of the female candidates has submitted their project proposals.
What about the example sentences 7 and 8? The phrases none of them and none of the doors can have either a singular sense or plural sense depending on the speaker or writer’s intent or emphasis. Based on this principle, the following sentence is correct: None of the doctors working in the COVID care centre are happy.
Similarly, fractional expressions such as two-thirds of, three-fourths of, 50 per cent of, a majority of, a part of and half of can take either a singular or a plural verb depending on the context. The rule is that a fractional expression is followed by a singular verb when it modifies an uncountable noun and it is followed by a plural verb when it modifies a plural noun. Here are examples:
Eighty percent of the water is used for washing clothes and cleaning utensils.
Two-thirds of the area was used for constructing houses.
Half of the work is completed.
In the sentences above, as water, area and work are uncountable nouns, the phrases eighty per cent of the water, two-thirds of the area and half of the work are followed by singular verbs.