None: singular or plural verb?

 

Q:

Could you tell me please if none must take an -s ending with the verb in the phrase as follows:

None of us want to see beautiful places overdeveloped.

Want or wants? I took this sentence from http://www.longman-elt.com/exams/students/

M.Tulupova
[email protected]

A:

This is a very good question indeed. There isn抰 total agreement among grammarians about the necessity to use a singular verb with none when referring to count nouns or to plural pronouns (us in the question you ask). (With noncount nouns, there is no problem: the singular verb comes easily, as in 揘one of the information was correct?and 揘one of this water is drinkable.?

It used to be asserted that none mean 搉ot one.?Because the word 搊ne?is singular, it was prescribed that none, as well as 搊ne,?require a singular verb.

The plural use, however, is not wrong, according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996, p.1230):

Either a singular or a plural verb is acceptably used in a sentence such as 揘one of the conspirators has (or have) been brought to trial.?

This conflict of rules is described in The Grammar Book, 2nd ed. (Heinle & Heinle, 1999, p.63):

When none refers to a plural noun梙uman or nonhuman梪sage seems to be more or less equally divided between the singular and plural inflection卛n the survey cited.

None of those firemen _____ (enjoy: 47%; enjoys: 53%) hearing the alarm go off.

None of the costumes he has tried _____ (fit: 50 %; fits: 50%) him.

From the same source, p.64:

Clearly, the traditional prescription that none is always singular is inadequate?ESL/EFL teachers must be aware of the fact that when the subject none refers to a plural countable noun, the plural verb inflection may well be used if current usage is any indication.

Betty Azar, in Understanding and Using English Grammar, 3rd ed. (Pearson Education, 2002, p. 89), gives examples of both 搃s?and 揳re?used with none, referring to count nouns: 揘one of the boys is here?and 揘one of the boys are here.?The explanation states: 揝ubjects with none of are considered singular in very formal English, but plural verbs are often used in informal speech and writing.?

So, as is often the case in modern English grammar, there is no one answer. The wording you choose illustrates how formal or informal or 揷orrect?you wish to be in your expression. In your example sentence, both None of us want and None of us wants are correct.

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