Is “Each” Singular or Plural? How to Use “Each” Correctly

Summary

Each, which refers to every person or thing individually, is grammatically singular. Use each before a singular noun followed by a singular verb.

Examples
  • Each person is important.
  • Each story is based on real events.

When used alone as a pronoun, each is again singular.

Example
  • Each is based on real events.

Each may appear after a plural noun and be part of a plural subject in a sentence. It is then followed by a plural verb.

Example
  • The fans each have a valid ticket.

“Each of” is generally followed by a singular verb in formal, edited prose.

Examples
  • Each of the fans has a ticket.
  • Each of these is valid.

In informal usage and speech, plural verbs are often used instead. (While common in speech, avoid treating each as plural in formal texts.)

Example
  • Each of those are ‘unforgettable sounds of the nation’s history,’ the Library of Congress said on Wednesday.
    — “F.D.R. Speeches and Alicia Keys Album Added to National Recording Registry,” New York Times (Apr. 16, 2022)

In an indefinite reference, each, although singular, may be followed by a plural, gender-neutral pronoun.

Example
  • Each participant gets their own kit.

Finally, when referring to a collective noun, each is sometimes used with plural verbs to refer to an entire group. This is seen more often in British than in American usage.

Example
  • Each team have been doing their best behind the scenes to destabilise their rivals.
    — “Dutch Grand Prix,” BBC Sport (Sep. 4, 2021)

How is each used?

The word each, which refers to every person or thing in a group separately, can be used as a determiner, a pronoun, or an adverb. It can appear before a noun, in place of a noun, after a noun, or after an amount.

Examples
  • Determiner: Each story is written by a different author.
  • Pronoun: The stories are all connected, although each is written by a different author.
  • Pronoun: The stories each have the same characters.
  • Pronoun: Each of the stories is written by a different author.
  • Adverb: These books cost six dollars each.

In this article, we discuss whether to use singular or plural verbs and pronouns with each.

Each before a noun

Use each as a determiner before a singular countable noun to refer to every one of two or more people or things individually. Make sure that the verb that follows is also singular. (A determiner is a word that appears before a noun and qualifies its reference.)

Examples
  • Each box is empty.
  • Each problem has a solution.
  • Each kit comes with a set of instructions.
  • Each house is more expensive than the last.
  • Each book costs a dollar.
  • Each child deserves a good education.

As a determiner, each cannot be followed by plural nouns or verbs.

Example
  • Incorrect: Each boxes are empty.
    Correct: Each box is empty.

Each may also be followed by the pronoun one for emphasis.

Examples
  • Each one is more expensive than the last.
  • Each one is correct.
  • Each one is empty.

When each is followed by a collective noun, which refers to an entire group, it is generally followed by singular verbs in American usage but plural verbs in British usage. (Collective nouns are often treated as plural in British usage.)

Examples
  • American: Each team has at least one critical flaw.
    — “The Reason Every NFL Playoff Team Will Lose,” New York Times (Jan. 12, 2022)
  • British: Each team have a low, wide goal on one end of the field.
    — “Rio Paralympics: Algeria Goalball Team ‘Did Not Boycott’ Games,” BBC News (Sep. 12, 2016)

Each with their

Each may be followed by a gender-neutral plural pronoun (their, them) when referring to an unknown person.

Examples
  • Each employee has their own ID card that grants them access to the thirteenth floor.
    Seen more often than “Each employee has his or her own ID card.”
  • Each person has their own story.
  • Each citizen must exercise their right to vote this year.
Tip

Indefinite pronouns like each and someone are often followed by third-person plural pronouns (they, them, their) to refer to unknown persons.

Each as a standalone pronoun

Each may stand by itself as a pronoun that refers to a noun. It is then followed by a singular verb.

Examples
  • I checked all the boxes: each is empty and can go into storage.
    Each used as a singular pronoun followed by a singular verb to refer to every box separately.
  • Each comes in its own package.
  • Listen to them: each has a story to tell you.

Each after a subject

The pronoun each may appear after a plural subject. It is then followed by plural verbs and pronouns that agree with the plural subject.

Examples
  • The employees each have an ID card.
    The pronoun each refers to the employees individually but is followed by a plural verb (“have”), which agrees with the plural subject (“the employees”) of the sentence.
  • We each have our own plans.
  • Lulu and I each get a chance.
  • Maya and Anita each have a ticket.
  • They each have an opinion.

Each of

In general, use a singular verb with each when it is followed by of and a plural noun phrase (“Each of . . .”). The subject of such a clause is the word each, which is singular, and the grammatically correct verb to use with it is singular rather than plural.

Examples
  • Each of the students is brilliant.
  • Each of us was right.
  • Each of them is ready.
  • Each of the cats likes pizza.
  • Each of her friends has been invited.

In spoken English and other informal usage, however, notional agreement often trumps grammatical agreement. Thus, a speaker or writer referring to an entire group (with multiple people or things) may use a plural verb after “each of.”

Examples
  • Each of those are coordinated from developing the basic science.
    — “Donald Wyse Is Growing a New Future for Farming,” New York Times (May 3, 2022)
  • But there’s a lot of conflicting information regarding how healthy each of them are.
    — “Which Cooking Oil Is the Healthiest?” BBC Future (Sep. 4, 2020)

Such usage is quite common and generally acceptable in speech and informal usage. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, for example, notes that “each of” may be considered plural. In informal usage, “each of” is often followed by plural verbs.

Example
  • As you turn each page, you enter another story, but each of the stories are connected.
    — William Dickerson, Goodreads review (Mar. 11, 2014)

Also, when referring to collective nouns (like team or group), “each of” may be followed by a plural instead of singular verb. This is seen more often in British than in American usage and in spoken English rather than edited text.

Example
  • Dealing with equivalents is dangerous as each of the teams have a different makeup.
    — “Red Bull’s Christian Horner Defends Team’s Decision to Leave Fota,” Guardian (Dec. 10, 2011)
Note

“Each of” is generally treated as singular in formal, edited prose.

When each is followed by a relative clause starting with who, that, or which, check what is being described: the entire group or the individuals in the group.

Examples
  • Each of the students that have passed the exam is being given an award.
    Who has passed the exam? The students have. Who is being given an award? Each of them is.
  • Each of the cats that like pizza also likes cheese.
  • Each of my friends who live in the city has been invited.

Examples from published content

The following examples from literature show how each is used before a singular noun followed by a singular verb.

Examples
  • Each organic being is striving to increase in a geometrical ratio.
    Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species (1859)
  • Each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences.
    Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore (1972)

Each can also be used alone as a pronoun followed by a singular verb.

Example
  • Each has inspired a few good quotes in its day.
    Margaret Atwood, “The Loneliness of the Military Historian,” Morning in the Burned House (1995)

In contrast, in these examples, each follows a plural noun phrase, is part of a plural subject, and is therefore followed by a plural verb.

Examples
  • We each have our circle.
    Gertrude Stein, “A Circular Play,” Last Operas and Plays (1949)
  • The various ethnic and political factions at the station each want to present their own truth.
    — Marc Fisher, “Voice of the Cabal,” New Yorker (Dec. 4, 2006)

Finally, “each of” is generally considered singular in edited prose but may be treated as plural when the speaker wants to emphasize a plural reference, as seen in the following examples.

Examples
  • Each of these exclamations was a shriek.
    Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (1861)
  • Each of you has a comrade to sympathise with him in his decay.
    Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847)
  • but
  • Now you might think that each of those are reasonable points which turn out, when you poke a bit, not to be in conflict at all.
    Ian Hacking, “Phony Peace,” Economist (Oct. 14, 1994)
  • To drill down a little bit further, each of them are former players.
    — Isaac Chotiner, “Jalen Rose on the N.B.A. Playoffs,” New Yorker (July 1, 2021)

Usage guide

Use each with singular verbs, except when it follows a plural noun (“Each person is different,” “Each of us is happy,” but “We each are happy”). Each may also be used with a plural verb to refer to multiple instead of individual people or things (“Each of those are important”), although singular verbs are preferred in formal usage. Each is generally used with singular pronouns (“Each story has an ending”) but may be used with a plural pronouns to refer to unknown persons (“Each applicant must verify their details”).

Quick Quiz

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Did You Know?

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