Singularly plural

The hair between the shoulder blades of my pet, Peeve, stiffened and he emitted a low growl. No less than The New York Times published this line: “None of the protesters were armed.”

See why Peeve deserves a treat? “None” is a contraction of “no one.” It therefore always takes the singular form of any verb, especially “to be.” Ditto “neither” and “either.” “Neither of the doctors was familiar with such symptoms.” “Either donut is fine.” Say or write “neither of the doctors were familiar…” and you’ll reveal yourself to be a thoughtless lummox stampeded by the herd into using our beautiful language incorrectly. Likewise, if you answer the question, “How are you?” with “Good.” The correct answer is “well” or “fine,” unless you feel like I do, in which case, the correct response is, “How do you think I am? I’m a terminally ill 62 year-old insomniac who was in lousy shape to begin with.” Although that does end the sentence with a preposition.

3 thoughts on “Singularly plural

  1. I had a boss whose regular response to the question “How do you feel?” was “No damn good.” Incorrect but colorful.


  2. I’m with you on the singular plural. But I beg to differ on the grammatically correct answer to “How do you feel?” “I feel well” means I have excellent tactile acuity. “I feel good” is perfectly correct; “good” here is not an adverb but a predicate adjective — it modifies “I,” not “feel.”
    Lucky for you, “I’m well” is also an acceptable response. Again, “well” (meaning not sick) is a predicate adjective.


    1. Judy’s a great friend, a fun pal, sings in Yiddish — an all-around terrific person. She was national editor of the Chicago Tribune for years. But this “tactile acuity” argument is wack. “I feel good,” might be okay, but answering the question, “How are you?” with “Good” means that you are morally a good person. If you want to reply with news of your current condition, “well,” is the way to do it.


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