Like it or not and regardless of how many times one hears the incorrect usage, words like “everyone,” “everybody,” “nobody,” and “someone” are, in almost all cases, singular – in other words, all pronouns that end in “one” or “body” take a singular verb.
Let’s talk a little logic here. “One” signifies one object – therefore, singular. The word “body” is also singular. Why, then, would words like “somebody” or “everyone” be plural?
Remembering that pronouns ending in “one” or “body” (everyone, everybody, someone, somebody, no one, nobody) are singular in almost all cases should not be difficult. “Everyone at the business luncheon is (not are) interested in the speaker’s topic.” “Someone left his briefcase at the luncheon,” not “Someone left their briefcase in the conference room.” “Their” is always plural. If the gender of the person is not known, saying, “Someone left an (or this or the) briefcase . . .” works perfectly well. The sentence could also be turned around to read, “This briefcase was left . . .”
The only exception to this rule is an instance when the singular use makes absolutely no logical sense. For instance, “Everyone at the baseball game ran to his car when the rain poured down” reflects an impossible situation – everyone in the baseball stadium running to occupy one car. In this instance, saying “Everyone at the baseball game ran to their cars . . .” makes more sense. Notice that “cars” then becomes plural, indicating many cars for the many people.
When an incorrect usage of this grammar issue is heard in informal casual conversation, an average listener may not necessarily notice the error. But writing must be much more exact and grammatically correct, especially in a business, academic or more formal situation.
The above easy tip is one of many detailed in the “Red Flag List” section of my “Rule of Thumb” book on business communication skills or check out my other articles. Check it out for additional simple tips to improve your writing and speaking skills.