I am looking at these two sentences:

  1. M and W are letters that each have 4 strokes.
  2. M and W are letters and each has 4 strokes.

It seems that each is an adverb in (1) but a pronoun in (2). Can anyone explain why each is not a pronoun in (1)?

  • possible duplicate of Is "each" an adverb, pronoun, determiner, or what else? Mar 3, 2015 at 8:04
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    This question is older, but the other question is more both more details and more comprehensive. Mar 3, 2015 at 8:04
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    @curiousdannii, while that might not have been immediately obvious in my question, I was trying to resolve a disagreement as to the use of singular or plural after the word "each". That particular concern has not been addressed in the question/answer you are referencing. John's answer here however gave me all the information I needed to settle the argument. Mar 5, 2015 at 15:00

2 Answers 2


Each is a Quantifier, a part of speech that wasn't discovered until the 19th century, too late to get into the Top Eight list, which was canonized much earlier. Quantifiers are a form of Determiner (another POS), and they "bind" noun phrases, which means they modify and quantify them. Like most noun modifiers, quantifiers are naturally found before the noun they modify.

Like many quantifiers, however, each is subject to a syntactic rule called "Quantifier Shift" (aka "Quantifier-Float" or "Q-Float"), which moves a quantifier from a prenominal position to an adverbial position:

  • Each of the boys said they would go. == Q-Float ==> The boys each said they would go.

Q-Float applies to the quantifier all as well as each, but not to the quantifier every:

  • All the boys said they would go. == Q-Float ==> The boys all said they would go.
  • Every boy said he would go. == Q-Float ==> *The boy(s) every said he/they would go.

As to the question...

In the first sentence in the question, that each have 4 strokes is a relative clause modifying letters, with that as the subject relative marker, and a Q-Floated each.

In the second sentence, each has 4 strokes is half of a compound sentence, a main clause with each as its subject.

Each (and, again, all, but not every) can act as a pronoun substituting for (in this case) each letter, in the same way this can substitute for this letter.

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    Brilliant explanation. The link to the 'canonical' parts of speech is invaluable. Jun 15, 2013 at 18:09
  • Note that the original list has already been tampered with. "Participle" has slipped off, and "Adjective" has been added. Latin grammarians treated adjectives just like nouns, because they behaved just like nouns grammatically. Participles, however, were a big deal in Latin, but not so much in English, so they went back to oblivion. Jun 15, 2013 at 18:22
  • @JohnLawler, May I ask you a question with the Q-shift? I've got this clause from OALD: "to tell two or more people who have not met before what each other's names are". Is this a kind of the shift? I could imagine this: OALD’s clause might be Q-shifted from “to tell each of two or more people who have not met before what their names are.” Can you explain the sentence, please? Related q.ELL
    – Listenever
    May 7, 2014 at 8:20
  • Each other is the reciprocal pronoun, and it's got very peculiar syntax, since in comes in detachable parts. You can say Each one knows the other (one) or They each know the other (one) or They know each other. All the same. In the monstrosity of a sentence you cite, I'm not sure that's Q-shift precisely, but more likely a special rule applying only to the reciprocal each. The little grammar words like these tend to display the most grotesquely irregular syntactic phenomena. May 7, 2014 at 15:40

In example B) 'each' is the subject of the clause and therefore acts as a pronoun and governs the verb in third person singular.

In A) 'each' acts as an apposition to the subject of the relative clause 'that'. Even though some authorities (e.g. the OED) still call it a pronoun in this function, the verb in the clause is governed by 'that', and must therefore be a plural form.

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