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None as plural indefinite pronoun

In my work I am often exposed to sentences written by nonnative speakers of English. I often come across sentences with a singular noun and a plural verb as in:

No error occurs when the file is loaded.

I know this is not technically wrong, but I am used to the general case being written

No errors occur when the file is loaded.

I suppose one argument could be that if you used the plural noun version, it wouldn't cover the case where there is one error. But to me, using the plural noun emphasizes "not even one" and so is the better choice. Are these sentences completely interchangeable? Is one preferred by native speakers over the other?

  • Isn't "occurs" the third person singular? I write, you write, he, she or it writes, we write, they write. – Brian Hooper Sep 4 '12 at 7:55
  • In the case where you would only ever expect one error, you would tend to use the singular. (e.g. No king sits on the throne today.) Similarly, in the case where you would never expect to see a single error, you would tend to use the plural. (e.g. No feet could be heard coming up the stairs.) Otherwise, I don't see any real difference. – Peter Shor Sep 4 '12 at 11:01

Native speakers say both. I detect a very slight variation of emphasis, with the singular noun sounding more absolute.

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  • Hmm, I see what you mean about the emphasis. I originally said the plural noun sounded stronger, but the more I think about it the more it seems to me that the singular should be stronger, and that I unintentionally trained myself to think otherwise through my overly casual usage over the years. – By137 Sep 4 '12 at 7:28
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    I think the singular noun would be used more in the case where you are contrasting with a situation where a given error does occur. E.g. "An error occurs when we start the program without a file but no error occurs when the file is loaded" – Wudang Sep 4 '12 at 11:36
  • @Wudang: I agree. – Barrie England Sep 4 '12 at 11:38

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