Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, speaking by the invitation of the Speaker of the House of Commons in a lecture regarding Brexit, quoted a Financial Times article and, in passing, 'corrected' its grammar.

Quoting the article, Rees-Mogg said of entries on a Wikipedia list (of entries in a table) that 'none are' from Europe and then corrected the article saying that it should be 'none is'.

'None' may refer to 'not one' in which case I would say it is singular. But 'none' may also refer to 'not any' in which case I would suggest it is plural.

Thus I think that Mr Rees-Mogg is not correct in correcting the FT article.

'None of the entries' (that is, not any of the entries) are from Europe' seems quite correct to me.

'Not one of the entries is from Europe' is also correct, I would say.

Is Mr Rees-Mogg correct ?

OED entry for 'none' :

a. Not any (one) of a number of people or things. Also: neither of two persons or things (now regional).


EDIT : I have read the suggested duplicates and they are inconclusive. I was hoping for a definitive (and thus an academic), decisive answer to the question.


  • +1 for stating that JRM is not correct :) – Oliver Mason Jul 31 '18 at 15:24
  • Pedants typically compensate for their ignorance of how language actually works by an insistence on rigid and arbitrary rules. – Colin Fine Jul 31 '18 at 16:03
  • @ColinFine 'Pedant' is the least nasty thing I have been called this week. Thank you. – Nigel J Aug 1 '18 at 2:51
  • @NigelJ: I didn't mean to refer to you as a pedant. – Colin Fine Aug 2 '18 at 22:58

There is no conclusive answer.

For singular and plural you have either "one" or "many"; some languages (eg ancient Greek) also have a dual, "two". So you have one thing, you use the singular, you have two or more things, you use the plural.

But "nothing" is neither one nor many. So the negative falls outside the singular/plural scope, as it is effectively undefined.

It thus falls to personal preference which you choose.

You could argue that none of them is "not one of them", and so you use the singular, but it is not one, so you could equally well argue for the plural.

The Google Ngram viewer, even though I usually treat it with care, seems to suggest that the singular is slightly more common, though it was less common before the end of the 19C. Interestingly, Jon Hanna's answer to this related question points to late 19C grammarians, who might have caused this.

| improve this answer | |

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.