These two – everyone, everybody – are almost synonymous, so I usually decide which one to use solely by intuition. However, there are some rules you (and I) should know:
- everyone and everybody are interchangeable in almost any situation, sometimes you might feel a difference, but it is hard to put a finger on it
- every one is very rare, sticky with one word – everyone
Subject – Verb Agreement
What is perhaps more difficult is the singularity of the words everyone or everybody. You should say:
- Everyone has finished on time.
- Everybody is here.
So even though it feels like you should use plural (have, are…), you are grammatically talking about one person. In American English, however, it is becoming increasingly commonplace to use they and their when referring to “everybody”:
- Everyone has to eat their own lunch.
This is actually an controversial issue. On one hand, you should use a third person pronoun, like he, she or it. But in case of “everybody”, the genders are probably mixed, so every other version sounds weird:
- Everyone should eat her own lunch.
- Everyone should eat his own lunch.
- Everyone should eat its own lunch.
So “their” is used not in a plural sense, but as an third person pronoun without a specific gender. How to solve this?
The root of this problem is that English doesn’t have a word to refer to a singular noun ofundetermined gender. As a solution, grammarians in the past have suggested that writers use just his to refer to everyone or everybody, but most now consider this solution to be sexist. Some alternate his with her; some use the phrase hisor her. But I can’t imagine most of you could comfortably utter the following sentence: “Everyone is putting a smile on his or her face.” Therefore, I don’t recommend you use this type of construction unless you want to sound like a crusty old curmudgeon.
Grammarians agree that there is no perfect solution to this problem.One of the suggestions is to rewrite the sentence to avoid the problem. So let’s go back to the problematic sentence we saw earlier: “Everyone is putting a smile on their face.” This one is fairly easy to rewrite: you could say, “Everyone is smiling.” Let’s make up another one: “Everyone had their hands in their pockets because it was so cold.” It wouldn’t sound so bad to write, “All the people had their hands in their pockets because it was so cold.” Just make sure your rewritten sentence fits in with the other sentences around it.