In school, I was taught whenever coming across the pattern "either..or" or "neither..nor", we should always consider the noun/pronoun nearer to the verb when deciding which form to use.

For example:

Neither my parents nor John _______ (agree) with that.

In this case, we should use "agrees" instead of "agree" since John is closer to the verb.

Then I have a question. What if when there is only "either" or "neither"?

For example:

There are two particles: quarks and gluons. Neither ________ (detect) in the lab in isolated form yet.

In this case, should I use "has been detected" or "have been detected"?

  • 1
    I'm sure that in this case "singular" is appropriate. So, "has been detected". Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 4:33

1 Answer 1


There is nothing stopping you from thinking of the pronoun neither as a shorter way of saying neither one where neither is functioning as a determiner. Neither one is obviously a phrase that's singular, therefore, according to the subject-verb agreement rule, the verb that goes along with the subject must be in its singular form if the subject itself is singular. That's why has been detected would be the correct choice here:

There are two particles: quarks and gluons. Neither (one) has been detected in the lab in isolated form yet.

  • 3
    Though note that in real life, and especially in speech, people will freely use either "neither has" or "neither have". Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 8:53
  • 3
    It's interesting because I hear both and both would seem natural to me. Because "neither" could be a determiner or a pronoun. Then I saw this dictionaryblog.cambridge.org/2017/05/10/… which would agree with you unless neither/either is followed by "of" then it could be either. Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 8:54

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