How many ways can you interpret none?
It can mean no one or not one (singular), or it can mean not any (plural).
How do you know which verb none requires: singular or plural? Is it none is or none are?
You have choices, and these tips will help you decide which to choose.
If none implies singular, pair it with a singular verb:
None (no one/not one) wants to attend.
None (no one/not one) knows how to play the piano.
If none implies plural, pair it with a plural verb:
None (not any) want to attend.
None (not any) know how to play the piano.
Whether constructed with a singular or a plural verb, the sentences of the example pairs convey the same information. However, sometimes a sentence that is grammatically correct just doesn’t sound right.
These tips offer further guidance on matching none with the correct verb:
If you don’t like the sound of a sentence when you pair none with a singular verb, use not one instead:
None expects to graduate in four years.
Not one expects to graduate in four years.
The investigation shows that none has been linked to the incident.
The investigation shows that not one has been liked to the incident.
When a prepositional phrase starting with of follows none, consider whether its object is singular or plural. If it is plural, either a singular or plural verb form is correct, but you might think the plural form sounds better:
None (not one) of the employees wants to attend.
None (not any) of the employees want to attend.
None is paired with a singular verb that follows a mass noun:
None of the water is seeping through the sandbags.
The fire raged, but none of the smoke is visible from the canyon.
Despite the extensive damage, none of the debris has yet been cleared.
A note for students:
In my online research, I learned that the SAT, a test required by many colleges and universities, prefers that none be matched with a singular verb.