SHARON’S BLOG

everyone is singularIt is hard to believe, but the word “everyone” is singular.

It sounds as though it should include a lot of people; in fact, it should include everyone—and that sounds plural.

But “everyone” is in the list of singular indefinite pronouns, which are listed here: each, every, either, neither, no, one, no one, everyone, someone, anyone, nobody, everybody, somebody, anybody, nothing, everything, something, anything.

I grouped them by their endings: -one, -body, and -thing. You also could list most of them by their beginnings: no-, every-, some-, and any-.

This week’s blog, which is another in a series of grammar tutorials, includes an infographic to teach the material, an exercise for your students, and answers to the exercise.

If you’re dying to know what the other grammar tutorials are about, click here for one on punctuation in dialog. (Tarzan and Jane help out on that one.) Click here if you yearn to know how to handle commas in compound sentences with coordinating conjunctions. And click here for the hard-hitting exposé on where to put the comma, period, colon, or semicolon when using quotation marks. The tutorial last week was all about using question marks and exclamation points with end quotation marks (you know, do they go inside or outside?).

Here’s the tutorial infographic, followed by the student exercise and the answers. Click here for a printable download of the infographic.

I know! I know! "Everyone" sounds like a lot of people. It should be plural! Student learn how to use the singular "everyone" correctly in sentences, along with other singular indefinite pronouns.

 

Here’s the student exercise. Feel free to copy and paste it into a document and double-space it so your student can make corrections. The exercise is taken from The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School.

Exercise for singular indefinite pronouns like “everyone”

Directions: Each sentence below is grammatically incorrect in number because it mixes a singular indefinite pronoun with a plural pronoun. Edit each sentence to make it correct and also make it gender neutral. If it is obvious that the pronoun would be a “he” or a “she,” feel free to use the appropriate pronoun. Click here for a PDF download of this exercise.

1. Every child has a right to eat their breakfast before going to school.
2. Each singer wanted to ace their audition.
3. Everybody but Anne did their homework.
4. Neither firefighter could find their boots.
5. Nobody should have to eat their lunch alone.
6. No clown would forget to wear their big, floppy shoes.
7. Either sister will do an excellent job because they are so proficient.
8. Every cheerleader will try on their new skirts at 3:00 p.m.
9. Anybody who sees a felony being committed can say, “Citizen’s arrest,” and have their voice count.
10. On Monday, each member of the Spanish Club is to bring their food made from a recipe in a Spanish cookbook.
11. Someone knows the truth about this accident, but they aren’t coming forward.
12. Anyone who still believes in phrenology needs to have their head examined.
13. A trapeze artist knows how important it is to be able to trust their partner.
14. For a student to schedule his/her six hours of behind-the-wheel instructions, he/she must have his/her permit from the license branch.

 

Answers:

Possible answers are below. The first answer is correct grammatically; the second (and sometimes third) is gender neutral.

1. Every child has a right to eat their breakfast before going to school.

Every child has a right to eat his breakfast before going to school.

Every child has a right to eat breakfast before going to school.

Children have the right to eat breakfast before going to school.

2. Each singer wanted to ace their audition.

Each singer wanted to ace his audition.

Each singer wanted to ace the audition.

Singers wanted to ace their auditions.

3. Everybody but Anne did their homework.

Everybody but Anne did his homework.

Everybody but Anne did the homework.

4. Neither firefighter could find their boots.

Neither firefighter could find his boots.

Both firefighters could not find their boots.

5. Nobody should have to eat their lunch alone.

Nobody should have to eat his lunch alone.

Nobody should have to eat lunch alone.

6. No clown would forget to wear their big, floppy shoes.

No clown would forget to wear his big, floppy shoes.

No clown would forget to wear big, floppy shoes.

7. Either sister will do an excellent job because they are so proficient.

Either sister will do an excellent job because she is so proficient.

Both sisters will do an excellent job because they are so proficient.

8. Every cheerleader will try on their new skirts at 3:00 p.m.

Every cheerleader will try on her new skirt at 3:00 p.m.

Cheerleaders will try on their new skirts at 3:00 p.m.

9. Anybody who sees a felony being committed can say, “Citizen’s arrest,” and have their voice count.

Anybody who sees a felony being committed can say, “Citizen’s arrest,” and have his voice count.

People who see a felony being committed can say, “Citizen’s arrest,” and have their voice count.

10. On Monday, each member of the Spanish Club is to bring their food made from a recipe in a Spanish cookbook.

On Monday, each member of the Spanish Club is to bring his food made from a recipe in a Spanish cookbook.

On Monday, members of the Spanish Club are to bring their food made from a recipe in a Spanish cookbook.

11. Someone knows the truth about this accident, but they aren’t coming forward.

Someone knows the truth about this accident, but he isn’t coming forward.

Someone knows the truth about this accident but isn’t coming forward.

12. Anyone who still believes in phrenology needs to have their head examined.

Anyone who still believes in phrenology needs to have his head examined.

People who still believe in phrenology need to have their heads examined.

13. A trapeze artist knows how important it is to be able to trust their partner.

A trapeze artist knows how important it is to be able to trust his partner.

Trapeze artists know how important it is to be able to trust their partners.

14.  For a student to schedule his/her six hours of behind-the-wheel instructions, he/she must have his/her permit from the license branch.

For a student to schedule his six hours of behind-the-wheel instructions, he must have his permit from the license branch.

Before students can schedule their six hours of behind-the-wheel instructions, they must have their permit from the license branch.

That wraps up the topics of singular indefinite pronouns, their need for corresponding numbers in verbs and pronouns, and the trouble they create when it comes to modern gender-neutral language.

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 Can you think of someone else who could use this tutorial? Feel free to share it with other families by using the buttons on this page.

Yours for a more vibrant writing class,

Sharon Watson

 

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Would you like more grammar tutorials? Check these out:

How to use commas in compound sentences with coordinating conjunctions
How to punctuate dialog with Tarzan
How to use quotation marks and punctuation
How to use question marks and exclamation points with quotation marks
How to use gender-neutral writing
“Everyone” is singular
Indefinite pronouns and verbs The link to the tutorial is in the introduction.
Sorting out confusing words like “its” and “it’s”
23 fun grammar lessons in the eBook Let’s Eat Fifi

Copyright © 2014 by Sharon Watson
Infographic copyright © 2014 by Sharon Watson

Exercise taken from The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, copyright © 2012 by Sharon Watson

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