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I've come across this sentence:

Every man, woman, and child in this line is required to sign the forms in order to complete the registration process.(From Longman Preparation Course for the TOEFL test: The Paper test)

I see that the noun phrase Every man, woman, and child acts as a singular noun.

But I wonder how about the noun phrase Every man, every woman, and every child?

I've heard that these two noun phrases are interchangeable; it's the same thing but just written differently.

But I've also heard that when noun phrases are connected with and, it's then considered as a plural.

So, what is Every man, every woman, and every child considered as? Singular or plural?

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    This is a very interesting grammar question, me thinks. :) – F.E. Dec 8 '14 at 19:18
  • A decent usage dictionary, such as Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, will have an entry that specifically discusses this issue of subject-verb agreement with "every" used in the subject (usually in the "every" entry). – F.E. Dec 8 '14 at 20:07
  • @F.E. Gowan, gowan, gowan, you know you want to answer this! :D – Araucaria Dec 9 '14 at 1:46
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    An interesting side point is the tendency for Americans to use singular for a group of people and British to use plural. For example, British will usually say "Manchester United are not the team they were when Ferguson was managing", and Americans will say "San Diego is likely to go far in the playoffs this year." If they use the nickname, they will of course use the plural: "The San Diego Chargers are likely..." and so on. I point this out because I suspect there are different opinions on which to use in the case you bring up. I would use singular in the first case and plural in the second. – BobRodes Dec 9 '14 at 3:42
  • An observation: When I remove in this line from the triple-every sentence, I feel a stronger pressure to make the verb singular. Including in this line makes me prefer a plural verb. – Ben Kovitz Dec 10 '14 at 19:31
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Short answer: Don't think too much about it and choose is, because every and each work the same way. If it helps, read every as every single.

Every (single) man in this line is required to sign the forms.
Every (single) woman in this line is required to sign the forms.
Every (single) child in this line is required to sign the forms.

A. Every single [man, woman, and child] in this line is required to sign the forms.

B. Every single man, every single woman, and every single child in this line is required to sign the forms.

C. Every man, every woman, and every child in this line is required to sign the forms.

Since the subject in A, B, and C is equivalent, is is required. In each sentence, you are talking about one person at a time.

Also we would not write:
*Every man, every woman, and every child are each required to sign the forms.

Another example:

Every pen on this desk is broken.
Every pencil on this desk is broken.
Every eraser on this desk is broken.

Every single pen, every single pencil, and every single eraser on this desk is broken.

Every pen, every pencil, and every eraser on this desk is broken.

And certainly not:
*Every pen, every pencil, and every eraser on this desk are each broken.

The above explanation covers standard written English. In spoken English, it's every person to their own device(s).

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    No qualms from me. If a writer wanted the plural form, switch "every" to "all": All the pens, papers, and erasers on this desk are broken. – J.R. Dec 9 '14 at 13:24
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Every man, every woman, and every child comes across to me as plural:

Every man, every woman, and every child in this line are required to sign the forms.

but it's for a strange reason. Because every man, woman, and child is such a familiar phrase, or at least the expected way to say it, the fact that it's reworded as three every phrases suggests that you're trying to emphasize three distinct groups rather than treat all the men, women, and children indifferently. This would call for a plural verb.

On the other hand, a singular verb can easily make the listener hear the triple-every phrase as singular. A listener can still understand the phrase as defining a single category to which the predicate will apply individually to each member, the same as the version with only one every.

Here are some examples that require the plural:

In this kit, every wheel and every axle are mutually compatible.

Every husband and every wife are to meet in the gymnasium.

Here are some examples that favor the plural, although the singular could work:

Every child and every parent are requested to attend the PTA meeting.

Every conversation and every semester are agony.

The triple-every phrase in the question sounds like it's trying to be heard like the comparable phrases in the previous two sentences (that is, as things that are very different).

Only the singular can work here:

Every nation, every province, and every city has its own government.

Every invention, every work of art, and every scientific theory is a product of human imagination.

The singular is by far the most common form because every means to apply some predicate to the individual members of the category, and that's usually still what you want when you combine every phrases with and. The exceptions happen when the speaker wants the listener to hear the different every phrases as separate in some important way.


However, on a written examination, you should ignore all that and just choose the "singular" answer. Above, I tried to explain the patterns and pressures that influence how a fluent speaker understands or chooses the verb. That kind of thing is too subtle for a person to include in a written examination, or for a machine to consider when grading it. There is a commonly taught "rule" that every is always singular no matter what. That's what an examination will test you on, even though in real life you find that the rule is not entirely true.

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"Every man, woman and child" acts as singular because the noun considered is "Every"

When the same thing is rewritten as "Every man, every woman, and every child" it becomes plural because we add every man, then every woman and every child one after the other.

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I want to add some information about this "every-" things. If you see words like "some-"/"any-"/"no-" , there are also consider singular noun.

For example,

No one are in the room (Wrong)

No one is in the room (Right)

Everything are in their places (Wrong)

Everything is in their places (Right)

Somebody have a secret to reveal (Wrong)

Somebody has a secret to reveal (Right)

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Every + a singular noun = a singular subject; Every man, woman, and child = Every man, every woman, and every child = a plural subject; if you want to regard them as a singular subject (because of "every", you should say "every person"...or "every man, woman, or child"

However, it's the TOEFL book by Longman which says it's a singular subject even though it is unlikely to be logical...

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