I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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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.

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.

Bolt of lightning

Thunder bolts and lightning, very very enlightening…

Sorry to play with some great lyrics, but the word lightning always makes me think of that song! Apparently, a number of people don’t realise that there are two versions of the word lightning/lightening – that is, there is one sound for the word but two spellings and meanings. Given people don’t realise there are two spellings, I guess it isn’t surprising to see the incorrect word used.

So here are the definitions of the two words to make sure you know which is which!

lightning: a sudden burst of light in the sky
The lightning storm was exciting and beautiful to watch

lightening: to make lighter or brighter
The sky was lightening on the horizon as we arrived home.
I am looking forward to  lightening my load!

Lightning in the sky is fast and sharp – there is no time for extra letters. Whereas lightening something involves some effort, it is a verb, so it has an extra e in the spelling and pronunciation.

Take my advice…

There are many pairs of words that sound or look very similar, but they can mean very different things. There is no easy way around these words, you have to learn them as you can’t rely on spell checkers and the like to pick them up every time.

One such pair of words is advice/advise.

Advice: Opinion given or offered as to action, counsel; information given. (noun)
As a business coach, I sometimes give advice to my clients.

Advise: Offer advice; recommend. (verb)
I advise you to wear a hat when walking in the desert.

So I advise you to take care with words. And my advice is to learn the correct use of each word.
How can you remember which is which?

“I give you advice and I give you ice” will help you remember which word is the noun.

* Definitions from the Concise Oxford Dictionary