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“Each” - Singular or Plural?

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  Ed Good  —  Grammar Tips
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Under the traditional rule, the indefinite pronoun each is always singular and takes a singular verb.

Thus:

Each of the golfers wants to win the PGA. Each of us wishes for success.

The Views of Usage Panels

Some usage panels disagree. Consider this usage note on Dictionary.com:

When the pronoun [each] is followed by an of phrase containing a plural noun or pronoun, there is a tendency for the verb to be plural: Each of the candidates has (or have) spoken on the issue. Some usage guides maintain that only the singular verb is correct, but plural verbs occur frequently even in edited writing. Dictionary.reference.com/browse/each.

But on Bartleby.com we find:

The traditional rule holds that the subject of a sentence beginning with each is grammatically singular, and the verb and following pronouns must be singular. Thus you should say Each of the apartments has (not have) its (not their) own private entrance (not entrances). Bartleby.com/64/C001/025.html.

Pronouns Referring Back to “Each”

When the pronoun each is referred to by another pronoun, that other pronoun must appear in the singular. Thus:

Each of the NFL players wants to increase his bonus. We must recognize that each has identified his or her own priorities.

Again, some usage panels disagree:

It is also sometimes said that the pronoun each must always be referred to by a singular pronoun, but again actual usage does not regularly observe this stricture: Each member of our garden club had their own special interests. In the most formal speech and writing, singular verbs and pronouns occur more frequently than plural: Each member … had his own special interests. The use of plural forms, especially plural pronouns, has been increasing in the United States, partially because of the desire to avoid using he or his to refer to a female.

Dictionary.reference.com/browse/each.

Sometimes, however, the pronoun each acts in apposition to a plural subject. In that case, the verb must be plural, for the grammatical subject always determines the number of the verb:

The coach and the quarterback each want to win the championship.

 

Previous: “None” - Singular or Plural? Next: Now let’s fix the chapter title…

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8 Comments

  • Billy Wilson
    Thank you so much.
    LikeReplyReport1 year ago
  • Billy Wilson
    Each of the citizens were voting today. (Is "were" correct or should we use singular "was")?
    LikeReplyReport1 year ago
  • Michelle Camp Rowland
    Each wants a chance to earn money. Is the verb correct in this sentence?
    LikeReplyReport 12 years ago
  • Joel Alderman
    Sorry. The letter "a" sneaked into my post, ahead of "the wrong word to use." It was just a typo. --Joel Alderman again
    LikeReplyReport5 years ago
  • Joel Alderman
    In these examples, "each" is a the wrong word to use. This whole issue could be avoided by simply using "both" instead of "each," followed by the plural verb. -Joel Alderman, Milford, Connecticut
    LikeReplyReport 25 years ago
    • Dora du Plessis
      Thank you, I was just wondering about "Each of these approaches has/have advantages and disadvantages" and when changing to 'both' the plural verb makes sense.
      LikeReplyReport3 years ago
  • Matthew Fragner
    In this example, each is an adjective modifying "We", so the verb remains dictated by the subject "We". We each are happy. We are each happy. Each of us is happy. Happy?
    LikeReplyReport5 years ago
  • Dorothy Witham Valdez
    I was taught that each (each and everyon of us) always take a singular verb. if we begin a sentence with "We, each, has/have a responsibility, etc. which is correct
    LikeReplyReport5 years ago
  • Briley Payton
    what does each mean
    LikeReplyReport5 years ago

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