Unpacking the Confusing Grammar of ‘Each of Them Is or Are’

Grammar is like a labyrinth, every punctuation mark confuses students, and even teachers argue about what’s right. One particular example that has been contentious for years is “each of them is/are.” Though it seems straightforward to native English speakers, non-native English learners find this concept baffling. Let us analyze each aspect in detail so that everyone can understand it correctly.

What does “Each of Them” Mean?

First things first – before dissecting how to choose between “is” or “are,” we need to know what the phrase means.

  • Each” refers to every individual person or thing.
  • Of them” shows there are more than one subjects being referred to; i.e., a group.

Therefore, when you use the phrase “(Noun) each of them,” you are talking about something unique that exists within a bigger collective i.e., have several objects/people with distinct identities inside one unit (for instance, apple from an orchard).

How do We Know Whether To Use “Is” OR “Are?”

This part stumps many people who aren’t grammar enthusiasts. However, using “is” or “are” after {noun} + [each] + [of] doesn’t depend on whether there are multiple subordinates or not ( if any), but instead focuses on scope (numerosity).

Lack Of Prepositional Phrases Relative To The Numeral Reference And Scope

If you don’t recognize what pre-existing condition needs its fulfilment e.g.,
Puppy love: Every dog-each puppy-has his day.
the word“are" would separate “day.”
Elephantine memory: The elephants –each weighing over 6000 kilos- escaped.
1.) There isn’t any preposition between the numerals (which can have a big influence on conjugation).
2.) The “each” in the phrase engenders concentration of interpretation; [respectively each elephant.]
How to identify: “Each” is placed directly before the noun, and there are no other prepositions between it and thenoun(s).

Table 1

Noun Verb Form Required
Each/ Every bear in the cave (verb) is/hides securely.
Every student currently enrolled is dealing with remote learning.
Each Prince George dairy farmer [although questionable] produces milk daily.

Presence Of Prepositional Phrases Relative To Numeral Reference And Scope

On presence of modifying clause declaring which entity one each gets referred,

a.) elementally synthesize your sentence with “are,” although this essentially depends on whether or not we regard these separate topics as part of an individual unit.


A clan,
Each member- clad in white robes-
was ready to drink today from Prophet’s well.

The ONLY singular subject “clan”
HAS several smaller units=multiple people(referred)
and take heed (sentence) elaborating that singular unit(bear) they all belong as entirety therein.

Another Example

This kind of phrasing has been around for centuries—Chaucer used it!

One example comes from his poem “Troilus and Criseyde,” written back in the late fourteenth century:

“And whanne he sawgh hire bothe brighte shene / He wondir was, and seyede thus, alias! / Who be ye þat so liȝthliche kan mene / Your troupe atween ys bettre than myn?

If you translate that into modern English words – specifically looking at how Chaucer uses the construction ‘each such’ – you could write something like:

And when he saw them both so bright and shiny / He was amazed, and said aloud,’ alas! / Who are you that can so readily mean/ Your truth is better than mine?’

Table 2

Prepositional Phrases Straddling Nouns/Between Them Verb Form Required
(Less Obfuscation): Each member of the tribe, alongside his bow or spear (if they still existed) seemed/hid from view. Are.
(Obfuscated as hell) each/ every bear in the cave with their younglings by their side

As a general rule; if the subject following “each of them” is singular, then use “is.” If it’s plural or compound (e.g. Bear + cub) those would necessitate “are.”


So – rather than worrying about whether to use is or are after ‘each’ – consider your numbers as possible aspects affecting this response!
Below we’ve given some examples- check ‘em out:-

  1. Each guitar player practices for three hours daily. ⇒ Guitar: Singular → {Is} ✓
  2. The guitarists performing tonight were phenomenal because…Each one played beautifully.⇒Guitarists: Plural:{Are}✓
  3. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves at our management seminar because there was ample professional advice provided on/by each speaker (!?). ⇒Proffered Advice:Tangle{?}:What do you–perhaps ignore altogether?

Considering what’s been noted thus far:
Biden gave away free turkey masks to friendly bystanders while POTUS prepared himself for golf portion of day by setting up wall guard against imaginery scourges inside(don’t ask why!).

Summing It all Up—Use Your Gut Feelings!

While grammar rules exist for a reason, sometimes learning English involves relying on your instincts. Confused? Read it aloud to yourself, and if something sounds off, try switching “is” or “are.” Over time you’ll find that neither +each nor other syntax(conceptual) will shockingly surprise you!


We hope this guide helps clear up any confusion you may have had about the grammar behind “each of them is/are.” While English language rules are often tricky, understanding how they work can improve your written and spoken communication significantly. Now Go forth like a word warrior!

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