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The following problem came up in class today:

None of us was/were able to communicate with the alien. Now, I was taught to find the head subject and then form the verb according to the number of this head subject, but here I am not sure whether none of modifies us (> were) or of us modifies none (> was).

Oddly, Google has this to say:

none of us was able (1.460 occurences, 60%)
none of us were able (970 occurences, 40%)

but also,

none of us is able (9.420 occurrences, 91%)
none of us are able (897 occurrences, 9%)

How strange! The preference seems to change according to the tense of the verb. What do you make of it? Can the difference in frecuency be explained by the use of subjunctive "were"? And, which of the four varieties would you allow in an essay?
Junior Member76
Mr Patrick The preference seems to change according to the tense of the verb. What do you make of it? Can the difference in frequency be explained by the use of subjunctive "were"?
I think you have a good point here.
Veteran Member11,673
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None is the subject of this sentence, that's for sure. Whether it means a single person or a group depends. In cases like this singular is preferable, unless a group of objects is meant. Even then objects can be grouped. I would use singular in most cases.

Regards,

Slava
Full Member243
None of us was able.

None of us were able.

Both sentences are grammatically correct. The same applies when both sentences are in present tense.
Veteran Member8,073
Anonymous:
But what if both the singular and the plural options appears in a question of a test? What would be the answer?
None is/was... is safe to use. Choose singular.

Slava
None=zero
closer to the singular than to the pluralEmotion: smile
thus singular would be the first choice.
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I've always thought of singularity as an unmarked form. You use the singular when there is exactly one.
If there is not one, either because there are more than one or less than one, the marked form should be used, i.e., the plural! Emotion: smile

The zero-is-close-to-one theory breaks down when we consider that two is just as close to one as zero is, leading to

None of us is here.
One of us is here.
Two of us is here.
(Three of us are here.)


!!! Emotion: smile

I agree, however, with the advice given above.

CJ
Veteran Member53,440
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Hi CalifJim

None of us is here.
One of us is here.
Two of us is here.
(Three of us are here.)

Is it a typo? Two of us is here.
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