Either...or, neither...nor

ScottsEnglishScottsEnglish Administrator Posts: 1,249 admin ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

How do we use either...or and neither...nor?

A student recently wrote, "Either his father or his mother are going to the meeting."

"Either...or" needs a verb in the singular when both subjects are singular. So the correct sentence is "Either his father or his mother is going to the meeting". 

It becomes a bit more difficult when the subject has one singular and one plural form. "Either his mother or his sisters are going to the meeting." The verb agrees with the plural form "sisters" and not the singular "mother."

The same rule applies to "neither...nor". "Neither the minister nor his assistant knows the answer." But, "Neither the minister nor his assistants know the answer."

In a question, for example, "Does either of them work on Tuesdays?" "In fact, neither of them works this week."

Many people make mistakes with these two constructions, and you will find mistakes in your reading and on the internet. Focus on the rule, though, that "either...or" and "neither...nor" are singular when they have singular subjects, and plural when one of the subjects is plural."

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