I know the verb should agrees with the closest noun (or pronoun). But I feel "are" is better with the following context.

Anyway, which one of them is correct and more common?

  • Neither they nor I am going to buy lunch.
  • Neither they nor I are going to buy lunch.

Update: I know it is better to rewrite the sentence in another way to avoid this scenario.

Is the secound one grammatically correct?


2 Answers 2


As most guides say (one of them), the tricky issue about Neither-nor and Either-or is that:

  1. When two or more subjects are joined, you should focus on the subject closest to the verb:

    • Neither my brother nor my sister was at school today. (Not were!)

    • Neither Michael nor his friends are going there tonight. (Not is!)

  2. If you have a plural and a singular noun joined it is better to place the plural last to avoid awkward sentences.

    • Neither I nor my friends have ever been to that cafe. (Not has!)
  3. With a plural and a singular noun joined once a plural comes first both plural or singular verb is possible. And as far as I am concerned this isn't bad grammar:

    • Neither his parents nor he was at home.
    • Neither his parents nor he were at home.

Yet, it's better to rephrase it to:

  • Neither he nor his parents were at home.

Of your two sentences:

  1. Neither they nor I am going to buy lunch.
  2. Neither they nor I are going to buy lunch.

The first one is correct but the most correct sentence should be:

  • Neither I nor they are going to buy lunch.

More examples:

  1. Neither the plates nor the serving bowl goes on that shelf.
  2. Neither the serving bowl nor the plates go on that shelf.

Your example sentences should be using 'they' rather than 'them'

  • Neither they nor I am going to buy lunch.

This usage of the word am in this sentence is wrong/incorrect.

  • Neither they nor I are going to buy lunch.

This sentence is correct; it uses valid grammar.

  • Thank you, I'll update the grammar in the question, but why "are" not "am"
    – Shannak
    Feb 19, 2017 at 10:26
  • 1
    @Shannak: Unfortunately, while I can recognize good and bad English usage and grammar, this is due to my speaking English all my life and also reading tens of thousands of books in English. I don't remember much of the formal rules as taught to me when I was young. I can't tell you the rule that proves why the use of 'am' your example is incorrect, but my brain insists that this is true. If I had to guess I would say that 'am' is singular (I am), while 'are' is plural (they are). Using either 'I are' or 'they am' would be incorrect usage. Feb 19, 2017 at 10:44
  • 2
    While the advice on this subject is to rewrite the sentence to avoid the issue, this example definitely sounds better with the plural: Neither the thousands of supporters nor my father WERE happy with the ref's decision. Feb 19, 2017 at 14:09
  • @Shannak, because "they + I" equals "we" and we should use "are" with "we." Feb 21, 2017 at 8:42
  • 2
    But we use "nor" between them, "Neither he nor she is going ...".
    – Shannak
    Feb 21, 2017 at 8:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .