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Subject-Verb Agreement: Indefinite Pronouns

An indefinite pronoun is another important part of speech. A pronoun can take the position of a subject in a sentence and make picking the right verb form challenging. Some of the indefinite pronouns are singular while others are plural. But there are indefinite pronouns that can take both forms. That’s why it’s necessary to make sure whether the context of a sentence is clear to use a plural or singular verb correctly. Singular Indefinite Pronouns

Singular indefinite pronouns, including “everyone,” “everybody,” “either,” “neither,” “each,” “no one,” “everything,” “somebody,” and “someone,” require using the same verb form. Basically, all the indefinite pronouns ending with “one” and “body” are singular. Here are a few examples of how a verb agrees with them:

  • ✔️ Somebody runs down the street – singular verb.
  • ✔️ No one is going home – singular verb.
  • ✔️ Everyone needs one more day off – singular verb.

Even though “either” and “neither” refer to two objects, a verb should take a singular form. These indefinite pronouns belong to singular ones:

  • ✔️ Either Ann or her sister has black hair.
  • ✔️ Neither of those guys knows what happened.

If an indefinite pronoun is separated from a verb by a phrase “of the + noun,” a verb should agree with a pronoun because it refers to one person or thing:

✔️ Each of his friends was glad to see him.

Plural Indefinite Pronouns

Plural indefinite pronouns include “several,” “both,” “few,” “others,” and “many.” They always take a plural verb, with the phrase “of the + noun” or without it:

  • ✔️ Both of her dogs were black.
  • ✔️ A few of Tom’s guests want to visit his new place.
  • ✔️ Several items are broken.

Singular and Plural Indefinite Pronouns

“None” is one of the most confusing indefinite pronouns because it can be either singular or plural. There’s a myth that “none” is a singular pronoun because it means “no one.” However, this word also means “not any,” so it can take a plural form too. If “none” represents one object, we’ll use a singular verb:

  • ✔️ None of the teachers agrees to follow the director’s advice.
  • ✔️ None of the puppies is ill.

If the indefinite pronoun “none” means “not any,” we’ll use a plural form:

  • ✔️ They sent many letters but none have been delivered.
  • ✔️ He has several ideas but none are worth attention.

However, the word “none” isn’t the only indefinite pronoun that can be either singular or plural. The group of these pronouns includes “all,” “more,” “some,” and “any.” If they refer to one object, use a singular verb. A plural form is required when an indefinite pronoun refers to more objects. For example:

  • ✔️ All of the pie is gone.
  • ✔️ All have left the room.
  • ✔️ Most of her friends are at home.
  • ✔️ Most of it is complicated.

If a sentence contains an uncountable object, it’s necessary to use a singular verb:

Wrong❌ Right✔️
Some of his poetry are well-known. Some of his poetry is well-known.
Some of the music were unbearable. Some of the music was unbearable.
All of the jewelry were stolen. All of the jewelry was stolen.

An indefinite pronoun can be used with a collective noun which is also confusing. In this case, the choice will depend on the meaning of a sentence. If an object goes for a unit, a verb will take a singular form. If a collective noun represents individuals, a plural form will be required. Here are a few examples:

  • ✔️ Most of the team are tired.
  • ✔️ Most of the committee agree.

Subject-verb agreement rules have many tricky points and exceptions. When it comes to picking the right verb form for sentences with indefinite pronouns, we often make mistakes. But a clear understanding of rules connected with singular and plural pronouns will make writing less challenging.

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