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What is the difference between “None Is” and “None Are”?

There is a lot of debate between whether it is correct to use none is, or none are. When you understand these phrases, then you can use them correctly.

There is one main issue that causes a lot of confusion:

None Can Be Both Singular and Plural

If none is used as a singular, then none are is incorrect. But there are some instances when none is a plural.

Singular uses for none include “not one is” or “no single one.” However, none can also be plural. In that case, it means “not one of them “or “not one of any.” The key distinction is the prepositional phrase that modifies the word none.

Does this sound confusing? Maybe some examples will help:

None of my clothes is right for a business meeting.

In this example, none is singular because it means “no single one.”

In comparison:

I spoke to all ten of my coworkers, but none of them are able to drive me to the event.

In this example, none refers to “not one of any.”

For most people, none is will be used far more often than none are in their regular communications. However, it is important to realize that sometimes none does take a plural verb.

When to use None Is vs. None Are

If you’re ever wondering whether to use none is or none are, here are two simple rules to follow.

1) Ask if the context is singular or plural. If it is singular, then use none is, but if it is plural, then you should use none are.

2) If you’re still confused, just default to none is. That is the more commonly used and accepted form. So, it is right more often than not.

In conclusion, this is one of the more difficult parts of American grammar. So, if you have a hard time getting it right, that’s okay. You will get better with practice, and most people won’t catch or correct it very often anyway.

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By Patrice Riley

Patrice Riley is the pen name of Dr. Deborah Riley. She is a retired English professor that enjoys grammar, literature, and all things writing.

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