How Many Pod People Are There? None of Us Know!

None is a noun that gives writers no end of trouble. Is none a singular noun or a plural noun? Does it take a plural verb or a singular verb?

Take these sentences, for example:

None of the pod people knows we have a plan to blast them all back to Titan.
None of the pod people know we have a plan to blast them all back to Titan.

Which of these sentences is correct? The subject in each sentence is none, so the verb know must agree with it. You know that, of course.

What you may not know is that both are correct. Yes, this is actually one of those few times when there really is no hard and fast grammar rule!

Some sticklers will argue with me, of course, but the fact is, none can be either singular or plural – depending on how the writer thinks of it! Even Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary bears this out, defining none as either singular or plural in construction.

That is to say, if you, the writer, think of none as really meaning “not one,” then none should take a singular verb. If, on the other hand, you think of the word as representing a plural, then you can give it a plural verb.

Personally, I would say, None of the pod people know that we have a plan to blast them all back to Titan. You might choose the second sentence, though. We’d both be correct – and as your editor, I’d defer to you on that one.

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