1)Everyone, except Jess and Susie, was present at the company meeting yesterday.

2)Everyone, except Jess and Susie, were present at the company meeting yesterday.

Which is correct?

  • Remove the parenthesis and the delimiting commas (you could have alternatively used brackets, dashes, or even zero punctuation here) and ask what you would use then. – Edwin Ashworth May 1 '14 at 11:09

Your first example is the correct sentence. The subject of the verb 'to be' (conjugated as 'was' in the correct sentence) is the collective pronoun 'everyone', which, as a collection, is a singular entity.

The clause in parenthesis ('except Jess and Susie') does modify what constitutes that singular entity, but it is ancillary to the main clause. Even if the group ('everyone') is smaller in the absence of Jess and Susie, neither of whom are subjects to the verb in the main clause, the group itself remains a discrete, singular entity.

A group is still a group, even when it is missing some members.

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  • Even when they modify a plural noun, the quantifiers each and every are singular, and govern singular verb agreement: Each (one) of the boys is prepared; Every one of the boys is prepared. On the other hand, all is always plural, and can't modify a singular count noun: All (of) the boys are prepared. It's a random assignment, like allowing either singular or plural with none: None of the boys is/are prepared. – John Lawler May 1 '14 at 15:50

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