Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Words I'm Looking Up (One in an occasional, cleverly named series on words I'm looking up)


Open up an Associated Press Stylebook to the letter E and the very first entry you see is "each. Takes a singular verb." (At least, it's the first entry in the 1992 version I happen to have handy.)

So when we copy editors think of the word "each," we think of matters such as: There are 50 units, and each has (not have) stunning views.

The problem is that this only applies to "each" the pronoun. But each has other forms:

The college of engineering, college of business, and college of arts and letters each require department approval for admission.

If you're thinking like a copy editor (or at least a copy editor on autopilot), you'll hesitate at that each, as I did recently. Each is singular -- it says so right here in my AP Stylebook. Therefore, that should be "each requires," right?


This each is not a pronoun. It's an adverb. (It can also be an adjective.) So the subject of our example sentence is "the college of engineering, college of business, and college of arts and letters." It's a plural subject, in no way altered by that adverbial "each." Thus, the correct verb conjugation is "require."

Just somethin' on my mind as I head to lunch ....

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Linnee said...

My head's going to 'splode. Why is each an adverb and not a pronoun?
Each (one of them) requires...

June Casagrande said...

It's a stinker, huh?

It has to do with the job that the word is doing in a sentence. In "Each has great wealth," "each" is acting as the subject. (It's performing the action of the verb.)

But in "Joe, Sue, and Mark each have great wealth," the subject is "Joe, Sue, and Mark." So "each" is doing a different job here.

Your example "Each (one of them) requires," is right because "each" is still acting as the subject -- with or without that "one of them" modifying it.

It's when we move "each" out of the subject job that its part of speech changes.

Adverbs answer the questions "how," "when," "where," and "to what degree."

So in our Joe/Sue/Mark example, "each" is really about "how" they are having something.

This link helps a lot!

I hope that helps! I hate laying this stuff on people because I know it's kind of gnarly for all of us who were taught that adverbs are only those -ly words.

Linnee said...

Whew! Thanks. I'm an English teacher and couldn't wrap my brain around that one. I get it now.

June Casagrande said...

I hate that feeling. (I know it well.) Glad it's clear now!


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