has or have? 
Posted: 25 March 2007 09:31 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Writing an essay about some ancient weight-like objects, I found myself at something of a loss. I wrote the passage ..."none of them has any mark which might relate them to any particular period”.... but it didn’t sound right, and I changed the second “them” to “it”. Now I am wondering whether I should alter this to “none of them have any marks which might relate them to any particular period”. But this doesn’t sound quite right --- and I think it alters the meaning slightly, too, lumping them all together. Since, as I understand, “none” derives from “not one” or “no one”, I’m thinking of sticking with the singular throughout --- but being as ignorant of the rules of grammar (if there are any) as I am (or was, B.W.*) of etymology, I’d like to hear from the mavens. Is “none of them have” acceptable currency? What about “none of them have been examined” vs. “none of them has been examined”? Despite “no one”, I’d go instinctively for “have”, not “has”, in this case. 

(I know this isn’t etymology, and I shan’t feel bad if my posting is expunged, or ignored. It’s not obscenity either, but I can fix that)

* B.W. = before wordorigins.org

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Posted: 25 March 2007 09:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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"None” can be either singular or plural, says MWDEU ... and I agree FWLIW.

I like either of the following. I recommend choosing whichever one best fits the intended meaning or whichever one seems to look/sound better.

[plural “none"] “None of them have any marks which might relate them to any particular period[s].”

[singular “none"] “None of them has any mark which might relate it to any particular period.”

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Posted: 25 March 2007 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I agree with D Wilson (and the MWDEU)—this is one of those indeterminate corners of English where there is no one right answer.  Me, I’d go with the plural just because it sounds better to me in this case, but you should use whichever sounds better to you.  (Please don’t worry about the origin of “none”; etymology is irrelevant to current usage, unless you want to start using “bead” to mean ‘prayer.’)

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Posted: 25 March 2007 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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OTOH, in this case the origin points up another possible way of phrasing the sentence that might offer a better solution to the problem.  If you don’t want to lump them all together, and in particular if you don’t want to imply that they all come from the same (undetermined) period, you could say “Not one of them has any mark which might relate it to any particular period.” Presto, no ambiguites about subject-verb agreement, no problems with the pronoun not fitting comfortably with its referent, and no subtle implication that they are all contemporaneous.

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Posted: 26 March 2007 04:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Thank you, all. Your remarks were helpful, and I enjoyed considering them.

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Posted: 26 March 2007 11:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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An old saying referring to a childless or friendless person:
None to leave and none to grieve.  Not that that has any relevance at all.  I just like the sound of my own computer.

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Posted: 26 March 2007 12:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I like the sound of your computer too.  A very pleasant purr.

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Posted: 27 March 2007 02:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Or, just for anyone here who is both childless and friendless through circumstances beyond their control, the old bachelor motif:

“No worries, more curries!”

:)

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Posted: 28 March 2007 05:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I have always liked Dr Techie’s method. If it is confusing, change the wording. No one should have a problem with that.

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