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In a comment on English Language & Usage I read the following answer responding to a(n) asker's question: "Neither sound natural."

I have always had more than one doubt on the "neither" usage and I would like understand(ing) the "secrets" to use this word better or, at the best, correctly.

So, let us consider the following examples:

1 Neither sound natural.

2 None sound natural.

3 No one sound natural.

4 Neither of them sound natural.

5 None of them sound natural.

6 No one of them sound natural.

7 Neither sounds natural.

8 None sounds natural.

9 No one sounds natural.

10 Neither of them sounds natural.

11 None of them sounds natural.

12 No one of them sounds natural.

Comparing the above sentences (one) with each other, can anybody explain which is grammatical and why?

  • @snail, thank you for being interested in answering this question. As a learner of English, I prefer prescriptive rules because they are less variable and more simply understandable. Real English usage seems a bit confusing from Italy. – user114 Mar 5 '13 at 23:02
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    "Neither" is an distributive pronoun which refer to persons or thing one at a time.For this reason they are always followed singular verb. – 1010 Nov 9 '15 at 9:59
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This is one of those areas where a prescriptive grammar rule is not terribly useful, because native speakers so regularly flout whatever rule you care to come up with. Instead, let me list which ones sound OK to my ear, and which ones do not. (I'm slightly reordering your examples to make my point better.)

1 Neither sound natural.
7 Neither sounds natural.

Because there is nothing between neither and the verb in this case, there's really no choice but to make the verb agree with the number of neither, which is singular. So #1 sounds wrong, while #7 sounds fine.

2 None sound natural.
8 None sounds natural.

Same situation here, except (at least to me) none on its own is plural (like zero would be), so #2 is OK but #8 sounds wrong.

3 No one sound natural.
9 No one sounds natural.

This one's pretty clear cut: one is singular, so the verb must be sounds, i.e. #3 is wrong, and #9 is correct. (I do want to add that this is a pretty unnatural sentence unless you're using no one as a synonym of nobody. If you're talking about example sentences in a book, don't use "no one".)

4 Neither of them sound natural.
10 Neither of them sounds natural.

Because of the "of them" that comes between "neither" and the verb, this can go either way: you can either use sounds, making the verb agree with neither, or you can go with sound, making the verb agree with them. So both #4 and #10 are OK.

5 None of them sound natural.
11 None of them sounds natural.

Example #5 is clearly fine -- the verb agrees with both none and them -- but, surprisingly perhaps, so is #11. This is one of those strange cases where, because of the intervening words between none and the verb, my ear no longer cares that none is supposed to be plural. Bottom line, #5 is the better choice, but #11 isn't wrong, either.

6 No one of them sound natural.
12 No one of them sounds natural.

I don't know if I'd recommend either of these. I think my problem is semantic rather than grammatical — as I noted above, no one really just functions as a synonym of nobody, and you don't say "nobody of them". In a context where I wanted to stress that no single one sounded natural (perhaps there are combinations of items that sound natural, but none of them work on their own), I can perhaps see #12 sounding OK.

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    "Neither" is an distributive pronoun which refer to persons or thing one at a time.For this reason they are always followed singular verb. – 1010 Nov 9 '15 at 10:00

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