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I understand from reading similar posts on this topic that if I want to write a sentence using "each of you," I should follow this with a singular verb. So, for example, "Each of you has given your all this year" is correct, and "Each of you have given your all this year" is incorrect.

If I'm right on this point, could someone explain how the quantifier shift would work if I wanted to rewrite the sentence beginning "You each"?

To my ear, "You each have given your all this year" sounds correct, and "You each has given your all this year" sounds horrible and wrong.

But is it wrong? If so, why is it wrong?

  • My example is for illustrative purposes only. – Euan Dec 4 '15 at 6:26
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    Sure, but it maybe incorrect English to start you sentence with You each, I think. Can you give an example of such a sentence ? – Darshan Chaudhary Dec 4 '15 at 6:33
  • Okay. I agree with you that style-wise it doesn't sound great, but I can't see why it would be out-and-out wrong. If you search for "you each have" on Google for instance, then numerous examples come up. One example coming up is as follows: "You each have unique abilities, life experiences, and training. You each have your own way of handling things and your own strengths and weaknesses" (from a book called A Catholic Guide to Caring for Your Aging Parent). – Euan Dec 4 '15 at 6:44
  • @DarshanChaudhary It's perfectly fine though! – Araucaria Dec 4 '15 at 11:10
  • @Euan People won't get 'pinged' and won't read your answers if you don't put an '@Bob' at the beginning of your comments to them! – Araucaria Dec 4 '15 at 15:17
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+100

The fact that you can't always tell whether the subject of a sentence is singular or plural isn't your fault. It's English itself that doesn't make this clear. In a noun phrase of the form "each of [NP Noun ... ]", you could count either the "each" as the head of the entire noun phrase, or you could consider "each" to be a quantifier/determiner/article element and take the noun after the "of" to be the head.

If "each" is quantifier, then the grammatical number of the following head noun, which will be plural when there is an "of", will determine the number of the entire subject, and we'll get "Each of you have left". But if "each" is taken to be the head noun or pronoun of the subject noun phrase, since it appears to be singular, the entire subject will be considered singular. Then we'll get "Each of you has left".

The fact that "each" is subject to a transformation called Quantifier Float, which gives "You have each left", is sometimes taken as evidence that it should be "Each of you have left", the reasoning being that if "each" is a quantifier, it can't also be a noun or pronoun, so the plural "you" must be the real head noun. But that's not very good reasoning. Just because when "each" was converted into an adverb, the "you" graduated to become subject, that doesn't mean "you" was subject before the "each" was moved. It doesn't follow.

So there is no real answer to the question of how the verb should agree except to appeal to people's opinions. Take a vote, consult an authority, toss a coin. Whatever.

Above, I said 'the "you" graduated to become subject' in "You have each left". So it must be the head, because it's the only noun there in the subject. In "You each have left", I think we can also conclude that "you" is head of the subject, either because the "each" is an adverb and not within the subject, or if it is, it would have to be an adjective modifying "you" (English does not permit NP containing just two Ns). So, assuming that the verb will agree in number with the head of its subject noun phrase, we would expect the verb to agree with logically plural "you" when "each" has been floated.

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    I'll take this the answer. Mostly because it attempts to get to the nub of what I asked in my original question, namely, "... could someone explain how the quantifier shift would work if I wanted to rewrite the sentence beginning "You each"?" For me this answer clarified what is happening here: each is the apparently singular head of the subject noun phrase in the first sentence ("Each of you has given your all this year"), and is then converted into an adverb in the second sentence ("You each have given your all this year"), with the plural you "graduating" to become the subject. – Euan Dec 7 '15 at 8:40
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    For the floated version, I gave an example with "each" in a position after an auxiliary verb to avoid a complication discussed by McCawley in TSPE. A quantifier before the first auxiliary needn't be an adverb, but may be a constituent of the subject noun phrase. I.e., "[you each] have ..." rather than "you [each have ...]". But after an auxiliary, the quantifier can only be an adverb: "you [have each ...]". – Greg Lee Dec 7 '15 at 18:33
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    I'll take this opportunity to clarify. I am not saying that "each" is the head of the NP "each of you", only that that is one possibility. English has put the subject NP structure "N of NP" to several uses. (1) The N may be head of the entire NP, (2) the N may be a quantifier and the NP the real subject, (3) the N may be deverbal and the NP the object complement, (4) the NP may be a possessor. (1) versus (2) will make a difference to how subject-verb agreement works. Except for looking at how the verb actually agrees, there is no way to tell. – Greg Lee Dec 8 '15 at 1:58
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    @Araucaria, in my answer, I said 'the "you" graduated to become subject' in "You have each left". So it must be the head, because it's the only noun there in the subject. In "You each have left", I think we can also conclude that "you" is head of the subject, either because the "each" is not within the subject, or if it is, it would have to be an adjective modifying "you" (English does not permit NP containing just two Ns). Interesting though this is, how exactly Q-float works does not seem to me to be relevant to the question. – Greg Lee Dec 9 '15 at 16:19
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    @Araucaria, Okay, since Euan does ask about the floated Q version, I added my previous comment to the answer. But I'm not happy with some undiscussed assumptions here about how subject-verb agreement works. – Greg Lee Dec 9 '15 at 16:41
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I am going to take a stab at it. I don't think the matter is entirely opinion, but "what sounds right" is certainly personal. To answer the question, though, I will use equal parts grammar and instinct. One problem is that English words don't, on their own, contain as much information as words in other languages, so it can be difficult to parse the relationships among them, and sometimes the "rules" are (or appear to be) arbitrary.

In "Each of you has given your all" the subject of "has" is "each", a third person singular pronoun. This is a possessive with an objective relationship, like "fear of death" (though you wouldn't write death's fear to convey that same meaning any more than you would write you's each, but it at least makes the grammatical point clear to think of it that way in your head).

In "You each have given your all" the subject of "have" is "you", a second person singular pronoun, whereas "each" in this case modifies you as an adverb, which clarifies that "you" isn't singular or, at least, places some emphasis (redundant, depending on the context) on the individual achievement of each member of the group if "you" in this case is second person plural.

Ambiguity sets in, however, if you think "each" in the second case might be an indirect object, which would then be equivalent to "You have given your all to each (one)." Likewise, you could rewrite your example: "You have given, each (of you), your all." Neither may be likely, but they're not impossible, and it's just to illustrate how word order has something to do with how you parse these phrases. Some sentences are more correct-looking than others, or more common, but others are deliberately rhetorical if not archaic ("wrong" is probably too judgmental unless the meaning is unclear or not intentionally ambiguous or elliptical, as often occurs in poetry, for example).

I think the simplest explanation, though, is the subject-verb one. Each is third person singular, you is second person (s. or p. doesn't matter):

I have

you have

he/she/it has

  • +1 from me. Particularly for referring to the agreement. – Araucaria Dec 7 '15 at 20:56
  • This is certainly useful, too. As @Araucaria wrote in a comment some time ago, it seems to come down to the question of what we take to be the head of the noun phrase. In the first case, it's likely that we will see this to be each (an apparently singular, third person pronoun); in the second case, it is you (and, as you helpfully point out, the have follows from it being second person - doesn't really matter if s. or p.). One thing I'm puzzled by in your answer, however, is how the second case sentence could possibly be rendered or understood as "You have given your all to each (one)." – Euan Dec 8 '15 at 0:19
  • @Avangion In para 3 you describe the use of "each" as redundant. I think it would be better to stick with your idea of emphasis. The use of each is not redundant, it is emphatic. Otherwise, I quite concur that the issue for the OP is which word is the subject of the sentence: each, or you. You get past that and the additional questions are just that - other questions. Related, but not the same. I prefer the simplicity of CompWiz's answer, but this one is more explanatory. – Corvus B Dec 8 '15 at 5:58
  • It's certainly not common, but think of it as "You, each have given, your all." You have to imagine it said with the particular emphasis indicated by the commas for it to make sense that way. It's definitely hard to see without the "to" or a clearer word order, but it's the sort of construction you sometimes see in, as I suggested, deliberately rhetorical or Latinate writing. As for the example I referred to as redundant, I think it depends on the context. "I saw it with my own eyes" is also redundant, but it can be emphatic at the same time. Genre, occasion, and style are important here. – sjsyrek Dec 8 '15 at 16:16
  • Yes, it's definitely very hard to see that without the "to." – Euan Dec 9 '15 at 3:22
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In the statements starting with "Each of you", the subject is "Each", making it a pronoun, and singular.

In statements starting with "You each", the subject is no longer "Each", but instead the subject is "You", making "each" an adjective. And "you" is plural. So, it makes sense to say "You have" and not "You has".

As if that wasn't fun enough, there is a second adjective use case. When the noun follows the word "each", the noun it is modifying must always be singular. Such as "Each dog".

edit

Upon further thinking... in the statement "each of you" could be a pronoun or adjective. As in. "Each had a great idea" (the pronoun) or "Each person has a great idea" (the adjective)

  • Thanks. That sounds okay, but this is causing me confusion: each pronoun Definition of EACH for Kids : each one <We each took a turn.> This is taken from merriam-webster.com/dictionary/each. If each is defined as a pronoun here, why does it become an adjective in "You each"? – Euan Dec 4 '15 at 7:12
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    Mostly because "You" can never be anything other than a noun. "each" can be either a pronoun or adjective. Since you already have one noun, each must be the adjective. – TheCompWiz Dec 4 '15 at 7:20
  • Can't the same be said of we? – Euan Dec 4 '15 at 7:21
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    Yep... and we is also plural... just like you. "We each have". Never "We each has". The verb must always match the subject. – TheCompWiz Dec 4 '15 at 7:22
  • Okay, but I'm still a little confused: Why does Merriam-Webster explicitly classify the each in "We each took a turn" as a pronoun? Is this wrong? You suggest that the each in "You each have given your all" is an adjective. I don't see the difference. – Euan Dec 4 '15 at 7:29

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