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I wrote:

When using this technique, the document or segments of a document is/are viewed as plain text.

Should I use is or are in this sentence?

  • I think since the last one is plural, you should go with "are". – Cardinal Sep 4 '16 at 12:10
  • Since you're speaking in generalities, you can change singular document to plural "documents" .... documents and segments of documents are viewed as plain text. The general sense supports "and". No native speaker would take that plural to mean that the process handles more than one document concurrently. They would understand the plural to be a form of generalizing: "when this technique is applied to documents and to segments of documents". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 4 '16 at 12:55
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    You could also choose the singular with the indefinite article: ...a document or a document segment is viewed.... Absolutely no reason here to choose the one construction which causes dissonance, a mixed singular-plural compound. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 4 '16 at 13:01
  • Using the and a in your sentence makes me think you all talking about two or more documents. – Abbasi Jan 3 '17 at 20:49
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When a subject is made up of two items joined with or (either...or...) we use a singular verb if the last item is singular (a plural verb is sometimes used in informal English ) and a plural verb if the last item is plural.

Either a station or a cinema is (are informal) a good place to meet. The President or his representatives are to attend the meeting. When using this technique, the document or segments of a document are viewed as plain text.

If the last item is singular and previous item plural,we can use either a singular or plural verb.

Either the teachers or the principal are /is to blame for the accident.

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  • you said first a plural verb if the last item is plural and then If the last item is plural and previous item singular, we can use either a singular or plural verb., they are contradicted! – Ahmad Sep 4 '16 at 14:26
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When you say "A or B" the verb agrees with B. So, in your sentence it should be "are," which corresponds to "segments of a document."

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    Why should it agree with "B"? – user178049 Sep 4 '16 at 12:58
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    As far as I know, that is the basic rule. For example, if you say "either A or B," the verb also agrees with "B." – Luxembourg Sep 4 '16 at 13:22

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