In my grammar book (English Grammar, HarperCollins Publishers), I read that none is occasionally treated as plural, but it is usually regarded as singular. Can you give me an example of sentence where none is used as plural pronoun?
None is commonly used as a plural. You can find many examples in the Corpus of Contemporary American English. For example, I searched for
I also searched for
This indicates to me that the “usually regarded as singular” traditional rule is in fact about half as common as the “occasionally treated as plural” exception.
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I wonder if it is talking about this:
"None" should be plural. If the target of the word "none" was singular, it would be "it", rather than "none".
The traditional answer is that 'none' should be construed with a singular verb (the rationalisation I remember being given is that it is a contraction of 'no one').
Ordinary people usually ignore this and construe 'none' with a plural.
So the answer is "plural is more common, but some people will criticise you for using it in formal contexts".
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Wow, all wrong. "None," when used as an indefinite pronoun, can be either plural or singular.
"None are right," and "None is right" are both correct. However, the former is more widely used.
None is indeed originally from not one or not a/an (since this happened before one and a/an became separate words, c.f. How French uses un/une for both the number one, and the indefinite article).
At the time that this happened though, it could be declined according to gender, number and case. King Alfred's translation of Boëthius' Consolatio Philosophiae (888CE) uses none not just plural but in a plural form.
So, even in very early use, while its origins may have been from not one, it had a meaning not any, and hence could be plural as well as singular.
It's also worth noting at this point, that no is also derived from not one in many senses (where used as a negative response, it has a different origin; no is a merging of two words), and it's use with both singular and plural use is less controversial (though not without differences of opinion as to just when it should be treated which way).
It would seem that the “logical” argument that none must be singular, because not one/not a/not an is singular is mistaking the word’s etymology for the word itself.
Of course, in leaving a defence of none being used in both the singular and the plural at this point, I could be doing the same thing: After all, Old English had different forms, and we do not. Some forms have given us separate words and we now have why as a separate word from what rather than their being the same word with different declensions.
It’s perfectly possible therefore, that by Modern English, none had become singular. However, it had not:
So was this a new strictness introduced in the 18th or 19th centuries, when some of the more notorious “rules” in English were introduced? Lindley Murray’s English grammar: adapted to the different classes of learners, with an appendix, containing rules and observations for assisting the more advanced students to write with perspicuity and accuracy (1835) argues:
Interestingly, he cites the “not one” argument for singular-only use, and seems to suspect none was once singular-only for this reason, but is quick to reject it. One example quoted is from the KJV as given above, “Lowth’s Introduction” mentioned above is Archbishop Lowth’s A Short Introduction to English Grammar, so looking at this 19th Century grammarian gives us an 18th Century grammarian for free!
At the same time, it does point to when the edict against plural none may have arisen. We might suspect it came with modern style-guides choices being taken as overall edicts upon the language, but that Murray mentions the “not one” derivation could mean he is taken the effort to debunk advice found anywhere.
Still, with this bringing us close enough to the current age that we can take the very existence of questions like this on websites like this to bring us through to the home stretch, it’s safe to conclude:
If nothing else, the form “Almost none…” would seem to forbid the singular, rather than the plural: