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I'm confused by the following sentences:

  1. Each of us has a laptop.
  2. We each have a laptop.

How can I intuit the differences between the two sayings? Why is it "we each have" rather than "we each has"?

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One of the key rules for understanding subjects is that a subject will come before a phrase beginning with of. The word of is the culprit in many, perhaps most, subject-verb mistakes.

Incorrect: A crate of sardines are* more expensive than I thought.
Correct: A crate of sardines is more expensive than I thought.

In addition, the words each, each one, either, neither, everyone, everybody, anybody, anyone, nobody, somebody, someone, and no one are singular and require a singular verb.

Each of these hot dogs is juicy.

Everybody knows Mr. Jones.

As for "We each have a laptop", in my opinion, it is a sloppy sentence compared with "Each of us has a laptop" or "We all have laptops".

If the intention were to use "each" as an adverb, it would and should be placed at the end of the sentence: We have laptops (,) each (of us).

And here's the final point:

With words that indicate portions—e.g., a lot, a number, a majority, some, all. etc.— the previous rule is reversed—and we are guided by the noun after of:

If the noun after of is singular, a singular verb is used. If it is plural—a plural verb.

A lot of the pie has disappeared.

A lot of the pies have disappeared.

A third of the city is unemployed.

A third of the people are unemployed.

All of the pie is gone.

All of the pies are gone.

Some of the pie is missing.

Some of the pies are missing.

Here's one of the numerous sources.

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  • OK. Please explain a bit on the verb "have" as I modified in the question description. – Lerner Zhang Sep 25 '16 at 23:09
  • "... a subject will come before a phrase beginning with of." No wonder a lot of people are confused. – bongbang Sep 26 '16 at 0:15
  • @bongbang- Nothing to be confused by since " a lot" (two words) is an informal phrase meaning "many". – Victor B. Sep 26 '16 at 7:47
  • "A number of," "a host of," and "a multitude of" are not informal. Add to those any number of informal ones ("a ton," "a bunch") and these very common phrases threaten to swallow your rule as stated. There's certainly enough confusion among us mortals to generate a vigorous discussion on the main English forum. – bongbang Sep 26 '16 at 17:04
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The first can also be written as "each of us have a laptop" according to dictionary.com.

When the pronoun is followed by a phrase containing a plural noun or pronoun, there is a tendency for the verb to be plural: Each of the candidates has(or have) spoken on the issue.

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    Sloppy grammar. "Each" is singular; "We" is plural. Therefore, "Each of us has a laptop" and "We each have a laptop." The example from dictionary.com grates on my ears: "Each of the candidates have spoken on the issue" sounds like something an uneducated child would say. Yes, yes, I realize grammar is "loosening up" these days, but I recommend you follow traditional grammar whenever you can while learning the language. "Each of us have a laptop" just sounds wrong. But good for you for doing your own research and providing your own answer (even if I disagree with it). :-) – Mark Hubbard Sep 25 '16 at 15:10
  • @MarkHubbard You're very welcome to post an answer. It's hard for me to understand the usage of "each" in some circumstants, let alone intuit it, then I should just learn it by rote. – Lerner Zhang Sep 25 '16 at 15:24
  • @lerneradams - "The first can also be written as "each of us have a laptop" according to dictionary.com." It says there that there's no more than a tendency, which is not quite the same as "correct grammar", especially when it comes from a learner. – Victor B. Sep 25 '16 at 15:48
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    @lerneradams: I hope you understand that my comment was not a criticism of you, but rather my somewhat grumpy response to changes in grammar and usage in general. I've up-voted your question and the other two answers. I sincerely admire you for learning English and understand why you might struggle at times with subject-verb agreement. Native English speakers struggle with it as well in both speech and in their writing all the time. I know this from more than 30 years of editing experience. Learning the correct use of "each" and the following singular verb by rote is just fine. – Mark Hubbard Sep 28 '16 at 14:42
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The verb must agree with the subject of the sentence.

"We each ..." takes a plural verb because "each" in this sentence is an adverb and therefore has no bearing on verb conjugation. Try changing it to another adverb like "always" or take it out altogether and you'll see what I mean. Just because "each" means "individually" doesn't change the grammatical relationship between the subject and the verb.

On the contrary, the "each" in "Each of us ..." is a pronoun and the subject of the sentence. The verb still has to agree with the subject, but the subject is now singular. Try changing "each" to "one" and it may become clearer to you.

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  • I'm not sure why this answer received a downvote. Apart from saying each in the sentence is an adverb (but what exactly it is is not the most important thing, IMHO; then again, to argue precisely what it is may be useful, even though it may need a solid grammar framework), this answer gets the results (i.e., the verb forms) right. – Damkerng T. Sep 26 '16 at 8:30
  • The thing is I'm not comfortable with saying that each in We each is an adverb. (I think it's a pronoun, but this is probably debatable.) – Damkerng T. Sep 27 '16 at 21:36
  • @DamkerngT. Examples of adverbial usage from multiple dictionaries: They cost a dollar each. The children were given one each. We gave them one apple each. The position is different, but adverbs can move around. The "each" in those sentences remains an adverb even when it's placed right after the subject. This well-received answer at the main English forum prefers the newish term "quantifier," but still refers to the "each" in "The boys each..." as being in an "adverbial position." – bongbang Sep 27 '16 at 23:08
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Each in "Each of us has a laptop" is like every one, as in "Every one of us has a laptop." Therefore, the verb is singular.

Each in "We each have a laptop" is like all, as in "We all have a laptop."
Therefore, the verb is plural.

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