Daily Archives: February 6, 2008

Grammar Wednesday

Things, Ones, Bodies, Each, and Every Edition!

I was lacking inspiration for today’s Grammar Wednesday post, so I decided to go to the grammar shelf of my bookcase, pull out a random style guide (I have many, many from which to choose), and write about whatever was on the page that I flipped to by chance.

The section I opened my book to is more about subject/verb agreement (which is more than a little fortuitous, given that this is what I sent my composition students home with on Monday), focusing specifically on irregular subjects like everyone, sometime, anybody, each, and every. So, here comes the lesson:

EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE WORDS – everybody, anybody, nobody, somebody, everyone, someone, no one, anyone, everything, something, anything, nothing – is treated as a SINGULAR subject and, as such, each requires a singular verb. Even if they are surrounded by prepositional phrases that express plurals, their verbs must be singular:

No one has a clue about what to do for the homework.

Something seems wrong since Joe left town.

Everyone wants to have their vote counted, but no one is sure that it does.

Everyone in the group of job applicants has an equal chance at the position.

Each and every function in similar ways, but they have the power to change whatever follows them into a singular idea, even if you’ve got a bunch of ideas. For example:

Each of the students thinks that writing journals are a waste of time.

We’ve got more than one student going on here – they ALL think that writing journals are a waste of time, trust me – but the each tells us that we’re speaking of them individually and not as a group. Therefore, we get to use a singular verb tense.  Drop the each and you’ve got a whole group of kids – the students become the subject of the sentence – and that requires a plural verb.

Every idea I proposed was shot down by the committee.

Again, we’re talking about each idea singularly, so we need a singular verb.

Finally, and in honor of this being a big presidential primary week, let me point out that the word politics is always singular. While on my way home from work on Monday, I heard someone on NPR say something to the effect of “politics have been my primary interest for most of my life” and I cringed. Politics – like mumps, mathematics, news, economics and a bunch of other words that I can’t immediately call to mind – is always singular, just like pants, scissors, and a few others, are always plural.

Happy Wednesday, All! Keep those Grammar Wednesday questions coming!

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