None are or none is

  • None is a pronoun most of the time. It means nothing, zero, no one, or not any part. Some believe it can only be singular in construction, but that is not true. Most seem to think that because none can mean ‘not one’ that it is always singular, but none can also mean ‘not any’. See the examples for uses in plural or singular.




    But on Friday, which was the last day of filing nominations, among the 24 candidates who filed their nominations from the area none was from the saffron party. [Hindustan Times]

    Perhaps none is more vulnerable than James, a soft-spoken 19-year-old who is quick to flash a smile that would melt ice. [Ottawa Citizen]

    Not only aesthetically but in just about every other way, Larkin was a man set against his time: modernism in the arts, left-wing politics of the kind that appeals to academic intellectuals, admiration of youth—none of it was to his taste. [Wall Street Journal]



    The court heard he also began using a camera pen in an attempt to gain images of the boys when partially clothed, but while the police found 170,425 images, none were classed as indecent. [The Telegraph]

    If we see that there are 50-100 black [former] players who have their coaching badges and none are getting jobs then we can say, ‘There could be a problem’. [Irish Independent]

    Based on the forecasts that we have gotten so far this year, none of them were very close to what the game conditions were. [ESPN]



    1. Gyan Moorthy says:

      I find it peculiar that “None of them is” has fallen out of common usage. Though many understand that the nature of a prepositional phrase does not affect the identity of the subject pronoun, they contend instead that “none” is not an inherently singular pronoun, that it can, as states above, also mean “not any.”

      While this may be true and would thus render my argument weaker, I would inquire into the fact that in much antiquated literature, “none” is innately and unalterably singular. Shakespeare epitomizes this. Even today, note many British works, like those of Terry Pratchett, make use of “none” as a singular.

      • Tired_&_Retired says:

        I’m going to go with the truly great authors, Shakespeare and Pratchett, and with the way my father taught me.

        I’ll allow that language changes over time (although it never asked my permission), but still– in each of the examples they use for ‘none’ in the plural, a change back to the singular (no’ne– no one) simply makes the case in a stronger manner: ‘If we see that there are 50-100 black (former) players… and not one is getting a job, then we can say “There is a problem”.’

        [I am occasionally curious as to who writes the definitions on this site, and writes them so dogmatically. More than once you see definitions which say, ‘Some say such-and-such, but they are all wrong– listen only to me!’]

        • I agree with you just based on Pratchett :)

          • Tired_&_Retired says:

            It is true that language is ever evolving, but… The idea that ‘anyone sticking to grammatical mores is going to be left behind” is overstating it. Language doesn’t evolve at light speed– words are added to our vocabulary with great frequency, certainly, but the grammar that our grandparents were taught is little different from what kids learn in school today.

            Saying that grammar ‘should be based on what communicates’ ignores the communication that goes on at a “meta” level. The sentence “She don’t know nothing” may certainly convey her ignorance, but it conveys that of the speaker no less.

            The rules are not merely ‘rules’, but a form of societal norm as well, and as such may be ignored at your peril.

            [And I couldn’t help but to notice that your response was grammatically correct!]

            • Sam Demich says:

              Ah but saying “She don’t know nothing” is not the most functional level of communication. It communicates the information, but in most formal conversations it would throw the other person out of the flow of information thus limiting their reception. Thus in a formal setting it would be an inappropriate method of communication. However in a less formal situation wherein you are communicating with friends, slang and shorthand are functional, if not improved methods of communication. I suppose it relies on how you distinguish communication, and language.

    2. Galen Ben Halil says:

      To assert that “none” can be plural is simply wrong. Even if modern parlance suggests it is somehow correct… the assertion that “none” can be plural is grammatically incorrect.

      The argument that “none” can mean “not any” still would not suggest that using the construction “none are” possesses any merit whatsoever.

      “Not any” is still singular, not plural unless one says “Not any two are”. Otherwise, the phrase “not any” means “not any one”.

      Indeed, it is correct to say: “Not any use of the plural after none is correct”. (The key word in the previous sentence is the correct conjugation of the verb “to be” — and that correct conjugation is “is”, and is not “are”.

      The dummying down of the English language to accommodate those who are lazy or ignorant causes the language to lose all precision concerning number.

      The specious debate in this column does a disservice to the English language and simply makes those who will never know better grammar feel good about themselves because someone now says it’s OK to use “none are”.

      Galen ben Halil
      Professor Emeritus of Linguistics – Oxford University


      • ebpcanimal says:

        “None is left.”
        —Subject of “is” is “none”
        —”None” is a pronoun
        “Not one is left.”

        —Subject of “is” is “one”
        —”Not one” serves as a noun or pronoun here

        “Not any is left.”
        —Subject of “is” is “any”
        —”Not any” serves as a pronoun here
        “Not any one is left.”
        —Subject of “is” is “one”
        —”One” is a noun or pronoun here
        —”Not any” serves as an adjective here
        …so they are not parallel.

        “None” does not always mean “not one”
        and “not any” do not always mean “not any one”:
        “None (of the bottles) is left.”
        = “Not one (of the bottles) is left.”

        = “Not any (of the bottles) is left.”
        = “Not any one (of the bottles) is left.”
        “None (of the cake) is left.”
        = “Not any (of the cake) is left.”
        I cannot say:

        “Not one (of the cake) is left.”
        “Not any one (of the cake) is left.”
        …because “cake” is uncountable here.

        What if we got rid of the adverb “not”?
        For uncountable “cake” I can ask,
        “Is any (of the cake) left?”
        But for countable “bottles” may I ask,
        “Are any (of the bottles) left?”
        or must I ask,
        “Is any (of the bottles) left?”?

        In fact, there are many indefinite pronouns whose number depends on whether the antecedent is countable or uncountable:
        “All (of the cake) is gone.”
        “All (of the bottles) are gone.”
        “Most (of the cake) is gone.”
        “Most (of the bottles) are gone.”
        “Some (of the cake) is left.”
        “Some (of the bottles) are left.”
        …so the object of the preposition, while not the subject of the verb, makes a difference how the verb is conjugated. And the presence of the adverb “not” does not change this fact…
        “Not all (of the cake) is gone.”
        “Not all (of the bottles) are gone.”
        …so why should “any” and “not any” and “none” be treated differently?

        I can understand why “one” as a pronoun and the related “everyone” and “everybody” and “no one” and “nobody” and “someone” and “somebody” and “anyone” and “anybody” are always singular. In those cases the subject is clearly a single person or thing. But “any” and “not any” and “none” are not so clear, unless we declare by fiat that the number zero is singular (kind of like how 0! = 1 in math?) and unknown variables are also singular. But then I think we would be venturing into another field of expertise altogether?

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