English has a lot of confusing words among its ranks, and, if we’re not careful in our writing, we can easily find ourselves misusing them, sometimes without even knowing it. A couple of words that I get questions about regularly are everyone vs. every one.
What exactly is the difference between these words? Is there one? Or can they be used interchangeably? Unfortunately, they cannot be used interchangeably, so in order to keep our writing precise and accurate, it’s important to understand the difference.
Today I want to highlight the uses of these words, their functions within a sentence, and give you a few tricks to remember the difference.
When to Use Everyone
Everyone is an indefinite pronoun and carries the meaning of every person; everybody. It is used to refer to all persons in a group. For example,
- Everyone at the office today was making me mad.
- The concert was awesome; everyone was there.
- Can you let everyone know the food is here?
- You’re one of us now, and it’s important that you tell everyone you know about it immediately and purchase the required gear. –The New Yorker
- Everyone believes in here that we can do it, so we just have to go down there, step up, give our best effort and try to get one. –The New York Times
Indefinite pronouns refer to non-specific persons or things, and you can see this in the above examples. Everyone is used to refer to all the people in the group, not a specific or definite individual.
When to Use Every One
Every one, as you can see, is two words. It is an emphatic way of saying each.
If you are referring to each individual item or the individuals who make up a group, you will want to use the two-word every one. For example,
- God bless us, every one!
- Every one of the brothers was there last night.
- Every one of these apples is rotten.
- Each and every one of the cards you gave me was worthless.
If you ever find yourself using the phrase “each and every one,” as the above sentence does, you should never substitute the single-word “everyone.” Everyone refers to all members of a group and the word “each” tells us that what follows is meant to be specific.
Is Everyone Singular or Plural?
You might think that since everyone refers to all persons in a group that it would require a plural verb to follow it. This is not the case.
Although everyone sounds like a lot of people, it is a singular noun that requires a singular verb. For example,
- Everyone was at the beach yesterday afternoon. CORRECT
- Everyone were at the beach yesterday afternoon. WRONG
Since everyone is a singular noun, you will want to make sure other pronouns that may follow it in the sentence are correct. For example, avoid sentences like the following,
- Everyone in the class asked for their grades.
Instead, the sentences should appear as follows,
- Everyone in the class asked for his or her grades.
Or, in order to avoid the cumbersome his/her wording, you could eliminate the use of everyone altogether.
- All of the students asked for their grades.
- The students all asked for their grades.
Remember the Difference
The one-word everyone can be substituted with everybody. Try substituting this word to check yourself if you are ever in doubt.
The two-word every one can be substituted with each. Try substituting each into your sentence and if it still makes sense, you will want to choose the two-word option.
Whether or not to use every one or everyone can alter the meaning of your sentences, so it’s important to use the two words correctly.
Everyone, one word, is a pronoun equivalent to everybody. It refers to all persons in a group.
Every one, two words, is a different way to say “each.”
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