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For a phrase such as the following:

each apple and each orange

Is it correct to use "has" or "have" when describing properties of both apples and oranges?

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I think it is better to avoid the use of 'each' two times. Each apple and orange "has" been picked from the best orchards of the world. The same rule is applied to "every" as well! – Manjima Aug 20 '10 at 8:36
@Manjima I don't think it is necessarily better. "Each apple and each orange is treated with the special tenderness it deserves" - remove the second "each" and the sentence's emphasis is altered. – delete Aug 20 '10 at 9:10
The meter is altered (ie if spoken), but the emphasis >if reading> is the same. – mfg Aug 20 '10 at 12:18
@Sherlock: Thanks, I get that-especially when I think of someone speaking these words! – Manjima Aug 24 '10 at 18:18
up vote 14 down vote accepted

Both each apple and each orange are respectively singular so it has to be has. If apples and oranges (plural) were the subject, you could use have.

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"Each" is a pronoun? – delete Aug 20 '10 at 8:59
yes, can be. But now that you (didn't) mention it, in this case it looks like it is used an adjective. I'll correct that. – Chris Aug 20 '10 at 9:12
"Each" is actually a determiner, or more specifically, a quantifier (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantification). – Kosmonaut Aug 21 '10 at 3:12
Wait a minute. Both an apple and an orange are respectively singular, so it has to be An apple and an orange has? Something is wrong with the reasoning here. I agree the answer is has, but I can't claim to know why. – Jason Orendorff Mar 18 '11 at 3:00
Each, by definition, creates an enforced separation. An does not. Its only function is to designate one item out of a group, not to isolate that item, as each does. An apple and an orange therefore creates a conjoined subject, which is plural. It is necessary to form the plural this way, because you can't do it by some means such as adding "s," as you can when the items involved are all apples. "Two apples" is plural, and so is "an apple and an orange." The use of each is specifically for the purpose of saying "take the members of this group individually, not as a group." – John M. Landsberg Jun 23 '13 at 5:03

Let's change each to reveal its meaning, and see what happens.

Every individual apple and every individual orange

We can now more easily see that each refers to the singular nature of one apple, and the singular nature of one orange. But more than that, it emphasizes that each of these things stands alone, and functions independently as the subject of the sentence. By using each in this way, we prevent the apple and the orange from being linked into a group; the use of each in fact separates them. Therefore, the verb remains singular, and you would say "has," not "have."

Using each in this way is equivalent to separating the two things and constructing an independent clause which we then use for each one, such as in this example:

An apple has a stem, and an orange has a stem.

Note that I have changed each to an. I can do this because repeating the independent clause makes it clear that I am referring to only one thing at a time (or one class of things; "an apple" sometimes refers to apples in general). And quite naturally, I use has for each clause. We don't usually use this kind of repetition, though, because it is awkward, and that is why the use of each is effective, thus: Each apple and each orange has a stem. That's more succinct and efficient.

Also note that an isn't the only word that can be used in this place; it's just an example. I could have said, "That (or my or one etc.) apple has a stem, and that (same options) orange has a stem." And I could even have used each, thus: "Each apple has a stem, and each orange has a stem." In this case, however, the use of each is different; here it actually means I am talking about every one of the whole group of all the apples. (English allows for lots of subtly different usages of the same word. That's what makes this web site so interesting.)

On the other hand, if I had said "an apple and an orange," (keeping the two things together, and not separating them by sticking a clause in between) this would link the two objects into a group, and would create a plural subject for the sentence. You would then say "an apple and an orange have stems." (This would still be referring to apples an oranges as classes of objects, but now the classes are joined into a plural subject.)

So, just to reiterate, in the case of your example, "has" is the correct choice.


Each does in fact change a coinjoined subject into two (or however many you are referencing) singles. But asking why it does so seems to me to be similar to asking why a car transports people from place to place. It does so because that's exactly what it is supposed to do. That is its function. Also, and interestingly, your examples of "both pieces the same" do not quite seem the same to me. "The master and commander" refers to one and the same person, does it not? And yet even in this case, you could put each in place, and suddenly you would be referring to two different people. Talk about a separation! In the second example, "time and tide" are two separate entities, and you could separate them with each if you chose, but of course I needn't tell you that that would destroy the well known axiom, changing both the poetry and the meaning in a way that wouldn't suit what you are trying to say. And yet, it would be valid syntactically, and would emphasize the oneness of each of these entities.

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Isn't it interesting to note that no one else has contributed an answer? Pity. This is practically a two horse race, if we exclude Chris, despite the high number of views and comments. – Mari-Lou A Jun 24 '13 at 5:51
@Mari-LouA I have noticed a strong tendency to post a lot of answer level responses as comments. Have you noticed how John Lawler, who I'm sure is the most knowledgeable of us all, seems always to use comments? I never see a formal "answer" from him, although I guess he must have posted plenty in the past. I always like your answers, by the way. And don't you find it ironic that Chris's answer, which was just about as simple as can be imagined, and including minimal explanation, was accepted right away? No offense, Chris, by the way; the succinctness of that answer is a great virtue. – John M. Landsberg Jun 24 '13 at 6:02
up vote -2 down vote


It is clear that apples and oranges are completely different fruits, so we are not talking about a specific group of students, political candidates, houses, or countries etc. However, these two fruits do share one quality.

Each apple has been handpicked with care.


Each orange has been handpicked with care.


Each apple and each orange has been handpicked with care.

It is the conjunction "and" which tells us the apples and oranges share this one feature. It is the adjective, "each", that explicitly tells us which apples and oranges; every single one. Consequently, the verb “have” agrees with the individual fruit (singular subject) thus explaining why "has" and not have is preferred.

If the author wishes to use the plural verb, have, for stylistic reasons, nothing forbids him from doing so. He merely needs to change the wording and reposition the small but very useful word, each in the sentence.

The apples and oranges each have been handpicked with care.

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Consider: “That man has left. That woman has left. That man and that woman have left.” Why doesn’t the same rule apply with each? – tchrist Jun 18 '13 at 16:25
One of the peculiarities of English quantifiers is that they vary in number. Each and every are both singular, while all is plural. This is true even in conjoined phrases like each apple and each orange. It isn't logical, but it is grammatical. If you think this is odd, consider that nothing is singular, when it is clearly neither singular nor plural. – John Lawler Jun 18 '13 at 21:21
But as I understand it, each apple and each orange are not meant to be totalled, so that's why they take the singular. We have the expressions: each and every one and each single one to say regardless of how many, I am giving you this piece of significant information. When people say: "all the apples and oranges" they really mean; nearly everyone, very close to all, give or take a few, practically every one, but definitely more than one. (I hope I didn't say anything naive.) – Mari-Lou A Jun 18 '13 at 21:39
But the question is about each, and that's what I was talking about. Normally a conjoined NP is plural, as you say; quantifiers, however, have their own syntax, which overrides a lot of normal constraints. That reconstruction seems reasonable, though it's just one reasonable scenario. Making up such scenarios ("frames" in the trade) is part of how we understand sentences. – John Lawler Jun 18 '13 at 22:47
@John Is this then the answer? – tchrist Jun 22 '13 at 11:21

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