Has the language really changed this much in twenty years? "None of your students have showed up" - a sentence supplied by this very website as a proper one - seems wrong on two counts to me.

Twenty years ago (or in my high school and college) "none" took a singular verb, as did "no one" and "nobody" and "nothing." And the past perfect of "show" was "shown." Show, showed, shown. They will show up. They showed up yesterday. They had already shown up.

In this example sentence ("None of your students have showed up...") I cringed two times. Shouldn't it read, "None of your students has shown up..."?

Or am I really that old?

  • That's still the rule, 'none' is singular, but it's still hard to follow. WDo you have the link and answer to the ELU question where this was found?
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 13:40
  • Goodness me! How old are you? I'm 70 and "none has" vs. "none have" doesn't bother me at all! Not all those rules we learned a century ago were right or even reasonable back in the day. I shivered at the "showed up", just as I would've had it been *"We shown up late, didn't we?". Chalk it up to a typo, poor proofreading, or the shift from verbal to graphic (as in Fahrenheit 451-style photography/TV/mass media-only) communication (the real source of what is called the "dumbing down of English" (and Chinese here in Taiwan). Chill & cut everyone else some slack. :-)
    – user21497
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 13:54
  • Oh...I didn't notice 'showed' instead of 'shown'. Yeah that's totally backwoods!
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 14:18
  • @Mitch, it's not backward, though it's archaic to my ears, it persists to the present day. Alas, it's closed for the duplication of "none" so we can't address showed.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 14:43
  • @Mitch: Simply stating 'that's still the rule', without substantiating authorities, isn't helpful. Especially when Barrie and Robusto then give well-resourced answers showing that it hasn't even been a rule within living memory. Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 14:58

2 Answers 2


Beware the Recency Illusion. None have has been around for at least 350 years. Even Fowler writing in 1926 said that it was a mistake to suppose that none ‘must at all costs be followed by a singular verb.’ The Oxford English Dictionary says in note in its entry for none ‘Many commentators state that none should take singular concord, but this has generally been less common than plural concord, especially between the 17th and 19th centuries.’

The past participle of show is normally shown, but the Oxford English Dictionary comments that ‘the older showed is still sometimes used’.

  • You're being recent, since King Alfred used none both singularly and plural around 890CE!
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 14:21
  • I'm sure you're right. Do you have a citation for his plural use? Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 14:50
  • I've been trying to track it down, but have only got as far as finding citations of the citation. It's meant to be in his translation of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy. I have Beleaf þær nan buton an munec. from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1070.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 15:03
  • Showed is easier, since the distinction of forms between showed and shown is only meaningful in talking about Modern English, so anything earlier than Wycliffe's "Alle these thingis Y schewide to you, for so it bihoueth men trauelinge to resseyue sike men, and to haue mynde of the `word of the Lord Jhesu; for he seide, It is more blesful to yyue, than to resseyue." Acts 20:35 is meaningless, and the relevance of "schewide" debatable, though we have "shewed" and "showed" in translations up until the present day.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 15:04
  • 1
    Found "...þeah he him nanra oðerra læna ne wene." which has me stumped on the translation (læna = lend? læna = temporary?) but that would seem to be "none" declined for plural use.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 9, 2013 at 21:30

This is a silly shibboleth brought to you by hyper-corrective grammar pedants. Here is a usage note that explains it in simple terms:

It is widely asserted that none is equivalent to no one, and hence requires a singular verb and singular pronoun: None of the prisoners was given his soup. It is true that none is etymologically derived from the Old English word n, "one," but the word has been used as both a singular and a plural noun from Old English onward. The plural usage appears in the King James Bible as well as the works of John Dryden and Edmund Burke and is widespread in the works of respectable writers today. Of course, the singular usage is perfectly acceptable. The choice between a singular or plural verb depends on the desired effect. Both options are acceptable in this sentence: None of the conspirators has (or have) been brought to trial. When none is modified by almost, however, it is difficult to avoid treating the word as a plural: Almost none of the officials were (not was) interviewed by the committee. None can only be plural in its use in sentences such as None but his most loyal supporters believe (not believes) his story.

All my paper dictionaries (OED, Wester's Third New Int'l, etc.) agree on this point. None takes both a singular and plural complement, depending on the circumstances.

  • Oops, oops, oops, oops. Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 16:54
  • 1
    'Silly shibboleths brought to you by hyper-corrective grammar pedants.' ... The older editions were so much better. Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 23:05

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