By popular demand, we are resurrecting this post and adding commentary:
Our original post:
A reader writes questioning the loss of a singular noun with the word “none,” as it now seems to be considered normal usage.
Occasionally you may hear the refreshingly-correct: “None is …”
Motivated Grammar wrote:
Why is “none are” incorrect? I’ve marshalled a series of arguments for why it’s right, and would be interested in hearing why you disagree. In short, it’s been in use since [the year] 888 and “none” can behave as a semantic plural, so there doesn’t seem to be any reason to oppose it.
And, our reply was:
Good question, thanks. The word “none” originated as a non-apostrophe contraction meaning “not one,” therefore, a singular pronoun. However, as you correctly point out, it has been used as a plural pronoun for ages. Most references now condone the commoner plural usage, so the only reason we have to oppose the plural is that we are, on most occasions, purists (or maybe just grammar snobs?)
For now, we’re sticking to our GrammarGuns … however, we will recommend leniency for anyone cited for using “none are.”