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Why is "Everybody" in the singular? We say "People in Europe are nice". Why, then, do we say "Everybody in Europe is nice"?

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    Every–body is a way of saying "each individual person" . Would you say each individual person "are" or "is" nice?
    – P. O.
    Jul 13, 2016 at 17:36
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    Each and every are singular. All is plural. Any and some can be either. It's like gender in French or German -- arbitrary features., no logical reason. Jul 13, 2016 at 17:38
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    @JohnLawler gender is hardly arbitrary, but that is a way different discussion :D
    – Helmar
    Jul 13, 2016 at 18:29
  • @Helmar: Quite right. They look arbitrary from the outside, though, and that's all that matters from that vantage point. Native speakers can tell, but nobody else can. Jul 13, 2016 at 18:55
  • The compound determinative "everybody" functions as determiner-head. The determinative base "every" has a distributive interpretation which is reflected in the singular head "body", and hence "everybody" takes singular verb agreement.
    – BillJ
    Jul 13, 2016 at 19:12

1 Answer 1

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First, consider the sentence:

Every dog is nice.

This sentence is composed of a quantifier ('every'), a noun ('dog'), a copula verb ('is'), and an adjective ('nice').

Notice that because 'dog' is singular, the singular form of to be is used, 'is'.

Now consider

Everybody is nice.

You can think of 'everybody' as being composed of a quantifier ('every') and a noun ('body'). It is a kind of compound quantifier phrase. Notice that the "embedded" word 'body' is singular. This should go some way toward explaining why one must use the singular of to be, 'is'.

The same pattern occurs with other compound quantifier phrases like 'everyone' and 'everything'. For example,

Everyone is nice.

Everything is fine.

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