THE PROBLEM WITH ‘EVERYBODY’ AND ‘EVERYTHING’!

by Mrs Elaine Loh

Many children understand the basic rules of subject-verb agreement in English. The basic rule is pretty simple: singular subjects should always be paired with singular verbs (verbs ending with ‘s’) and plural subjects are paired with plural verbs (plural verbs do not end with ‘s’). An example of the basic rule is given below:

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Why is ‘Everybody’ and ‘Everything’ singular?

The problem, however, lies with everybody and everything or rather, the pronouns ‘everybody’ and ‘everything’. For instance, many children often ask me, if ‘everybody in the room’ refers to all the people in the room and if ‘everything in the box’ refers to all the things in the box, then why is it a singular subject and not plural?

To avoid being confused, you need to know what the pronoun ‘everybody’ and ‘everything’ means.

The pronoun ‘EVERYBODY’ is a singular subject because it means ‘every single person’(singular subject):

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The pronoun ‘everything’ is also a singular subject because it means ‘every single thing’:

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Now that you know what the pronouns ‘everybody’ and ‘everything’ mean, you can also apply the same rule when you try to transform sentences from their plural to singular form. Here’s a common transformation question where the same rules apply:

Transformation question:

All the pupils in the school speak Japanese.

*Highlight/mark out the subject and the verb.

Transforming the given sentence beginning with ‘Every’ will require you to change the plural verb ‘speak’ to its singular form ‘speaks’:

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Pairing the subject with the correct verb is a key element in English grammar. Understanding the logic behind the rules will help you remember how to apply them correctly and effectively. In my next blogpost, I will be covering another major confusion in subject-verb agreement involving the phrase ‘None of’. Do look out for that soon!

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