The Grammarphobia Blog

Can more than one be singular?

Q: Which is better: “More than one person is going” or “More than one person are going”? Put more abstractly, should the verb agree with the meaning of the word “one” or the meaning of the phrase “more than one”?

A: The phrase “more than one” can be either singular or plural, depending on how it’s used, according to The American Heritage Book of English Usage.

When “more than one” modifies a singular noun, it goes with a singular verb: “More than one person is going.”

But when it’s followed by “of” and a plural noun, it takes a plural verb: “More than one of the people are going.”

When “more than one” stands alone, it can be either singular or plural, depending on whether you want to emphasize the oneness or the more-than-oneness.

If someone asks you how many people are going, for example, you could reply “More than one is too many” or “More than one are going.”

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