Either/Or and Neither/Nor

We have discussed how compound subjects take a plural verb.

Example: Both Ted and Fred need to be invited to that meeting.

Q: But what about either/or and neither/nor sentence constructions?

Standard Answer: That depends.

With neither/nor and either/or, the verb tense depends on the noun closest to the verb.

Examples:

Neither the pump nor the valves meet specifications. (plural)

Neither the valves nor the pump meets specifications. (singular)

Either the compressor or the drill bits are going to have to be moved from this area. Either the drill bits or the compressor is going to have to be moved from this area.

Be careful not to use a double negative when using neither/nor after the verb.

Bad Example:

He did not order neither the core barrels nor the core catcher. (double negative.)

Corrected Example:

He ordered neither the core barrels nor the core catcher.

Another way to correct that double negative would be to use the “not A or B” construction.

Another Corrected Example:

He did not order the core barrels or the core catcher.

Make sure that both halves of the either/or and neither/nor constructions have the same part of speech immediately following. We editors call this a “parallel construction.”

Bad Example:

The company man said he wanted us to either drill a sidetrack or lateral.

In this example, a verb follows “either” while a noun follows “or.” Nix, nix.

This can be corrected two ways:

The company man said he wanted us to drill either a sidetrack or a lateral. (both nouns)

The company man said he wanted us to either drill a sidetrack or turn it into a lateral. (both verbs)

Either way, the parallel construction works.

—————————————–

Profound Quote of the Day:

“The community which has neither poverty nor riches will always have the noblest principles.”

– Plato, Greek philosopher, 427 BC – 347 BC

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One Response to “Either/Or and Neither/Nor”

  1. Jose Says:

    Nice examples, man. Thank you!

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