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This question is related to: "Each" — pronoun or adverb

The sentence in that question is:

M and W are letters and each has 4 strokes

In that sentence, how do we know that “each” is a pronoun and thus requires “has” rather than “have”? With another adverb, it would be “have”: “M and W are letters and individually have 4 strokes.”

I'm specifically asking now about "each" in the following position:

[ (Subject 1 and Subject 2) (plural verb)], and [(each) (singular verb?/plural verb?)]

“Each” can be a pronoun or an adverb. My question specifically relates to the position in a compound sentence where "each" could seemingly be either a pronoun or an adverb.

Bob and Bill each work in Boston.

Here, “each” is an adverb because the subject is “Bob and Bill.”

Bob and Bill work in Boston, and each goes fishing on weekends.

Here, how do we know that “each” is a pronoun, and thus requires a singular verb, as opposed to an adverb, which would continue with the plural verb? Is it impossible for it to be an adverb here?

In the sentence below, “individually” is in the same position as “each” above but is necessarily an adverb.

Bob and Bill work in Boston and individually go fishing on weekends.

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"Each" is not a pronoun at all. When "each" is a noun phrase, it is from "each one", and the noun phrase is singular because the pronoun "one" is singular. After you delete the "one", "each" is just what is left over in the noun phrase.

You write:

Bob and Bill work in Boston, and each goes fishing on weekends.

Here, how do we know that “each” is a pronoun, and thus requires a singular verb, as opposed to an adverb, which would continue with the plural verb? Is it impossible for it to be an adverb here?

Yes, it's impossible for "each" to be an adverb. If "each" were an adverb, it would modify the VP "goes fishing on weekends", and that makes "each goes fishing on weekends" also a VP (because adding a modifier doesn't change grammatical category). Then, the preceding "and" must connect this VP with a preceding VP of the same type. There is a preceding VP, "work in Boston", but it is a plural-agreeing VP, so it is not of the same grammatical type. You can't connect with "and" a plural-agreeing VP and a singular-agreeing VP.

That's why this parse fails. However, the "and" can connect two sentences, since it is preceded by a sentence, "Bob and Bill work in Boston", and we can also parse what follows the "and" as a sentence, as follows.

Each goes fishing on weekends.

is an S with singular subject "each" and singular-agreeing VP "goes fishing on weekends". The "each" subject is from "each one" (or, if you like, "each one of them"), and since the subject's head noun "one" is singular, the subject is singular, just as we require, for it to agree with "goes".

  • Would you please clarify what you mean by "You can't connect with 'and' a plural-agreeing VP and a singular-agreeing VP." Isn't that what the "Bob and Bill" sentence does? – deadrat Dec 16 '15 at 6:21
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    No, that example connects two sentences, not two VPs. The constraint on coordination is that the constituents coordinated have to be of the same category, not that they have to contain the same categories. So coordinating two sentences containing different types of VPs is perfectly okay. – Greg Lee Dec 16 '15 at 6:34
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    Yes, that's close. Each verb of the two coordinated predicates must agree in number with the subject, since (in the way I'd put it) only predicates of the same agreement type can be coordinated. I use "type" as a synonym of "category". There must be two different types/categories of VP, singular-agreeing and plural-agreeing, because of the way phrase structure grammars work. You subcategorize NPs into two categories, NPsg and NPpl, and VPs into VPsg and VPpl. Subject verb agreement is then expressed by providing that a finite sentence has either NPsg VPsg or NPpl VPpl, Other ... cont. – Greg Lee Dec 16 '15 at 7:53
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    @deadrat, cont. ... phrase structure rules must then interpret these four categories appropriately. But there is no way to make it work without distinguishing VPsg from VPpl. Then, the basic constraint on all coordination will prohibit a rule VP -> VPpl and VPsg, because different categories were coordinated. – Greg Lee Dec 16 '15 at 8:00
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    @deadrat, you were clear. I agreed with that in my previous comment. And I never claimed to be able to eliminate the possibility of an ambiguity -- I was just talking about the example that was given. – Greg Lee Dec 16 '15 at 16:51
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Each is a pronoun.

Each is from the Old English aelc, which was a pronoun with a meaning comparable to the modern word each.

There was also a word eac in Old English, which was an adverb meaning also and which was cognate with the modern German auch; however, eac, doesn't have a descendant in modern spoken English. Eac is not a possible source of each, because the c in eac was pronounced hard, like a k, while the c in aelc was pronounced soft, like a ch. That is similar to the pronunciation of c in the Old English hwylc, which give rise to the modern which (also a pronoun), which shows the same loss of l before the soft c as can be seen in the development from aelc to each.

Each takes a third person singular verb. If you want to use a third person plural verb, then you need to replace the construction based on each with a construction based on both (if there is a set of two) or all (if there is a set of more than two. As a footnote, both is one of the few dual number words remaining in the English language, with all serving as the plural form.

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