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In English, the number 0 is treated as plural. It is then:

  • 0 seconds
  • 1 second
  • 1.2 seconds
  • 2 seconds

Shouldn't it be "nobody want to go there," instead of "nobody wants to go there"?

I also saw in TOEFL that "any __" should be used with a singular. But I see it very common that it is a plural also. Why is that? (updated: example, "we don't have any apples any more" vs "If you get any apple, please let me know.")

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I'm not sure exactly what the connection between the "0 seconds" and the "nobody want to go there" is. One deals with adjectives and noun agreement and the other deals with subject verb agreement. –  gbutters Apr 18 '11 at 3:01
    
I'm lost on the last part about the TOEFL and "any___". Could you clarify it with an example? –  gbutters Apr 18 '11 at 3:02
    
Related. –  Kosmonaut Apr 18 '11 at 3:13
    
@gbutters pls see the comment under Kosmonaut's answer –  動靜能量 Apr 26 '11 at 20:40
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4 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted
  • Zero cars have driven by.
  • Not one car has driven by.

Both of these sentences are fundamentally describing the same thing semantically and yet they demand different number agreement. Both of these are possible because grammatical number agreement is only partially informed by semantics.

Just because some descriptions of a lack of something have plural number agreement, that doesn't mean that all descriptions of a lack of something must have plural number agreement.

So, it is true that zero takes plural number agreement, and nobody takes singular number agreement. However, there is no reason that these have to work in the same way.


I have no idea what your second question (regarding TOEFL) could mean. Any can refer to singulars or plurals — it completely depends on what is in that blank space.

  • Is there any water left? (Singular verb agreement for grammatically singular water)
  • Are there any cookies left? (Plural verb agreement for grammatically plural cookies)
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the "any ___" question is: "Does any person know what the answer is?" instead of "Do any people know what the answer is?" -- so in this case, the noun has to be singular, no? –  動靜能量 Apr 26 '11 at 20:39
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Nobody—like everybody, anyone, and anything—is a singular indefinite pronoun. Thus, the correct sentence is "Nobody wants to go to there."

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If you added an example, like the one mentioned in Kosmonaut's answer, it would improve this answer. I'm saying this because I don't know the technical term you mentioned, although I do think it's useful that you provided it. –  martin jakubik Apr 18 '11 at 12:32
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@martin jakubik Mark Trapp has reported which is the correct sentence to use. The singular indefinite pronouns are, by definition, singulars; that means you cannot use a plural verb with a singular indefinite pronoun. –  kiamlaluno Apr 18 '11 at 12:56
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Nobody is singular, and that is not related with the fact any number different from 1 (one) is considered plural.

Nobody was at home.
Nobody could predict how it might end.

Any can be used as both singular, and plural.

I don't have any choice.
Do you have any tips to pass on?
If there is any left, throw it away.

[The examples are taken from the New Oxford American Dictionary.]

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I don't think "any choice" and "any left" are good examples of singular usage. You can only say "Is there any left" for uncountable nouns, right? (Any sugar, any butter). As for "choice," which does have a plural form, I'm still not convinced... doesn't "choice" have both countable and uncountable forms, and aren't you using the uncountable here?... I'm just thinking out loud, but it seems to me that any should be usually used with the plural. –  martin jakubik Apr 18 '11 at 12:29
    
@martin jakubik The sentence starts with "if there is any left," and the pronoun after throw is it. This should suggest to the OP that when using any the verb to use could be singular (as in the last sentence), or plural (as in the second sentence). –  kiamlaluno Apr 18 '11 at 12:53
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My answer is "nobody wants to go there", because nobody, in this case, has a singular notation.

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