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Singular indefinite pronouns

Although it sounds simple, plural and singular words are not always placed with the appropriate version of a verb. While many people understand what to do for she, we and they, it gets harder for indefinite pronouns (those which refer to something not specific).

The following indefinite pronouns are always singular, even though they might, by implication, suggest many people:

another, anybody, anyone, each, either, every, everybody, everyone,
neither, nobody, no one, one, somebody, someone
Anything is possible in your dreams.
Everybody comes in the front door.

There are a few indefinite pronouns that may be singular or plural, depending on their use. They are:

any, all, none, more, most, some
All of us are running late. All is not lost.
None is more important than honesty. None of those books are mine.

Using apostrophes

Many people claim that they don’t understand apostrophes. At least, they don’t understand where to put them!

Basically, an apostrophe indicates that someone or something owns something else. For example, the boy’s dog – the boy owns the dog.

For a singular owner, it’s easy. The apostrophe and an s come after the word – boy’s, Mary’s and woman’s.

Its also easy if a plural term exists, such as men’s, crowd’s, children’s and management’s.

If the owner ends in s, the apostrophe comes after the s without an additional s. So the horses’ stable and the Smiths’ house are correct.

Apostrophes are also required in abbreviations to show letters are missing. For instance, are not becomes aren’t and do not becomes don’t.

The trickiest word is its…

It’s is the abbreviation of it is; the possessive term is its. So it’s raining today, but the horse lost its shoe.

So there are no apostrophes for decades, numbers, plural abbreviations or plural items – some correct examples are
– during the 60s
– she bought some CDs
– find all the As
– look at my photos
– he is in his 90s
– a list of URLs
– the babies are sleeping
– we will have three pizzas please.

A company is singular

Most people understand that the verb needs to match the number of subjects – that is, if the subject is singular, the verb is the single tense, but if the subject is plural, the verb must be the plural version.

For example:

the boys go to the park daily  OR the boy goes to the park daily

they sing very well   OR   she sings very well

my friends eat quickly   OR   my friend eats quickly

Where people sometimes get confused is with words that appear plural when they aren’t, or singular when they are plural. For example, children, women and men are plural even though they don’t end in s, and words such as crowd, group, herd and pack are singular even though they have multiple parts.

When writing about a business, it is also a singular word even if it sounds plural (for example Woolworths and Brambles are both singular so ‘Brambles is in Australia’s top 100 companies’ is correct.)

Remember that the business name could be replaced with the word ‘it’ so match the verb with ‘it’. A business or a company is a thing (the people behind it are its staff or owners) so does not use the pronoun ‘they’, although is a common misuse in conversations.