2

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?

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2 Answers 2

1

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.
-2

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.

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  • 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
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    But we use "nor" between them, "Neither he nor she is going ...".
    – Shannak
    Feb 21, 2017 at 8:47

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