None Is or None Are?

none is or none are?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:

Tip 1
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.

 

Tip 2
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.

 

Tip 3
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.

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

2 thoughts on “None Is or None Are?

  1. Avatarwilliam

    Greetings, Kathy,
    I have (over?)simplified my usage to the following:
    If the pronoun, “none” or its contrasting positive “some” describes an amount, then the verb is singular, e.g. none of the sugar has ants; some of the flour has mealworms. In this case “none” connotes “not any.”

    If a quantity, then the verb is plural. Only with the pronoun “one” is it singular. Here “none” stands for “not one.”

    Does that make sense to anybody but me?

    1. Kathy WatsonKathy Watson Post author

      William, I’m not certain I’m following you. Couldn’t these both be quantities? (You say: If a quantity, then the verb is plural.)

      Some of the cookies have been eaten. (plural)
      Some of the milk has gone sour. (singular)

      None (not any) of the cookies have been eaten. (plural)
      None (not one) of the cookies has been eaten. (singular)

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