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I know that "none of [...]" can be both singular or plural, but when I use it alone in a sentence, without the "of" and without any other nouns, can it be both singular and plural or does it depend on the context?

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  • See also english.stackexchange.com/a/456280/15299. Jun 13 at 14:55
  • Yes, it normally functions as determiner in singular or plural fused-head NPs: "Ed had plenty of money, but Kim had none" ~ "Ted made many mistakes but Gill made none".
    – BillJ
    Jun 13 at 15:13
  • It doesn't need an antecedent: "Ed has a good time, but none of my friends turned up".
    – BillJ
    Jun 13 at 15:57
  • @BillJ: In "none of my friends," friends is the antecedent (okay, technically it's a postcedent and not an antecedent, but in any case the OP specifically excludes the none of the ... construction in his question). As far as I can tell, none always needs an antecedent or a postcedent. Jun 14 at 10:47

2 Answers 2

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'None' is a contraction of 'not one'. It can also mean 'no one', 'nobody', 'to no extent', or 'not any'. It can therefore take on both a singular and a plural verb, depending, indeed, on the context.

  • No one is here/nobody is here/none is here.

  • I invited five of my friends. None were here.
  • They were at my place, eating all my bread. None is left.

But also consider these examples from thesaurus.com:

  • None of the books is worth reading.
  • None of the books are worth reading.

As is stated there, "both are correct, and a person could choose to use either. The second, though, sounds more natural to many English speakers, as the context concerns multiple books".

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We don't generally use none without some antecedent. It almost always has an antecedent, although possibly it's in a previous sentence. If you want to use none without an antecedent, you should instead use nothing, nobody, or no one.

When you use none, the verb should agree with the antecedent, as Joachim's answer says.

Usually, there are a lot of people outside that restaurant, waiting for a table. But yesterday, none were.

(Because you expect a lot of people, was sounds quite strange to me in this sentence.)

I wanted to read a book by Robert Bookwriter. However, none were/was in the library.

(Because you only want to read one book, both were and was sound acceptable to me. My impression is that were is more common.)

There was a fire in the post office, and some of the mail was singed. However, none was destroyed.

(Because mail is an uncountable noun, you need to use was here.)

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