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General Writing and Grammar Help/“None applies” or “None apply”?


Hi Ted,

“None applies” or “None apply”?


Dear Leonardo:

This question has been around for centuries.  The plural form "apply" was used in the King James Version of the Bible.

During the development of the English language over a long period of time, most people believed that only the singular form "applies" could be used, because "none" is a shortened form of "not one."  "Not one" clearly looks like it is singular.

However, in modern English, both are acceptable, depending quite a bit on the contexts in which they appear. I, personally, am a traditionalist, so I prefer using "none applies."  If someone chooses the opposite, I cannot call him wrong.

EXAMPLE:  There were several solutions presented to solve the problem; however, NONE of them APPLIES to the problem itself.

I have found three opinions from different web sites.  You will see that the writers have greatly expanded on what I have written.  The last site is from a man named "Richard Turner."  He was, for many years, my biggest competitor.  We disagreed often and we would challenge each other in back-and-forth messages.  He had a dispute with the Allexperts staff a number of years ago, and he quit the service.  He passed away five years ago.  The world of grammar was dealt a loss with his death.

My advice is "Use none applies," but make allowances in some cases to the plural form to be used.



None of these apply/applies

Working on a document for a client.  I should write “None of these applies”, because “none” refers to the singular (“no one”) which would use “applies” - as in, “The chicken applies lip balm”.  However, it’s tempting to write “None of these apply”, because this usage is increasingly present in the common vernacular, where “apply” is mistakenly understood to reference the plural “these”.

Problem is, the second one has become so common that the first one is beginning to seem odd.  Twenty years from now the formal rules will be rewritten to support the evolution of our language, but for now it’s a crap shoot.

I’m going with “apply”. [NOT Ted's words]



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Ted Nesbitt


I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.


I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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