None: Singular or Plural?

I’ve just come back from a long trip, so this is my first post in quite a while.

(You can find photos of our travels on Picasa.

A correspondent wrote to say that since ”none“ is a contraction of “not one” it should always be treated as singular.

This is a common misconception.

The Oxford English Dictionary explains that the word was originally spelled nan in Anglo-Saxon, and entered the language as the opposite of an.

The OED also provides this usage note:
Many commentators state that none should take singular concord, but this has generally been less common than plural concord, especially between the 17th and 19th centuries.

It also says that with the meaning “no one” “none” is most often plural.

Michael Quinion has an excellent discussion of this point on his wonderful site, World Wide Words.

This view is not peculiar to UK writers.

The rather picky stylebook of the New York Times urges its writers to avoid singular “none” most of the time.

Despite a widespread assumption that it stands for not one, the word has been construed as a plural (not any) in most contexts for centuries. H. W. Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926) endorsed the plural use. Make none plural except when emphasizing the idea of not one or no one — and then consider using those phrases instead.

See http://topics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/24/hobgoblins/.

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