Here is my construction,

If e1 or e2 are positioned a non-zero angle with respect to f, a single intersection point is directly considered. If e1 is unfixed, the sweeping of e1 through the intersection point is allowed.

My question is as I am trying to use only one edge (e1 and e2 are edges), in the above are should be is or not

  • I'm working on an answer to this... will delete this comment when done. :) – CoolHandLouis Mar 7 '14 at 2:07
  • @NANDAGOPAL It's up to the OP to decide which answer they'd like to award the check mark to, if any. They're free to wait for another answer to be posted, for example. – snailcar Mar 7 '14 at 10:10
  • @gnp I need some clarification before I answer, which I'm still working on (for fun). What is the context of these sentences? Will this include image examples of the picture you are depicting? What document will this be in? – CoolHandLouis Mar 8 '14 at 12:43
  • And btw, my answer will be slightly different than those below. :) – CoolHandLouis Mar 8 '14 at 12:44

The word ‘or’ is used here as a disjunctive conjunction.
That means that ‘or’ does not conjoin as ‘and’ does.

There are two kinds of logical disjunction:

  • Inclusive means “and/or” - at least one of them is true, or maybe both.
  • Exclusive (“xor”) means exactly one must be true, but they cannot both be.
    In our case ‘or’ is exclusive; we should choose from one of the alternatives.

The American Heritage Dictionary describes the usage as follows:

When all the elements in a series connected by ‘or’ are singular, the verb they govern is singular: Tom or Jack is coming. Beer, ale, or wine is included in the charge. When all the elements are plural, the verb is plural. When the elements do not agree in number, some grammarians have suggested that the verb should agree in number with the nearest element: Tom or his sisters are coming. The girls or their brother is coming. Cold symptoms or headache is the usual first sign. Other grammarians, however, have argued that such constructions are inherently illogical and that the only solution is to revise the sentence to avoid the problem of agreement: Either Tom is coming or his sisters are. The usual first sign may be either cold symptoms or a headache.

I cannot contradict any of them even if the second group seems to be more logical.

If a greater distinction is needed, another phrasing is available: entertaining or traveling, or both.

In your question if you insist on using plural form of the verb your statement should be phrased this way:

If e1 or e2 or both are positioned...

Otherwise you should use:

If e1 or e2 is positioned...

That is, you must choose one of the alternatives.

  • Hope you like my formatting change; I really like your answer. – Bob Stein Mar 6 '14 at 9:49
  • Yes, it's better. Much obliged! – Lucian Sava Mar 6 '14 at 10:02
  • @snaiplane, Thank you both, I appreciate and like it most! – Lucian Sava Mar 7 '14 at 10:36

I could not think of the pattern -> if + singular noun + or + singular noun + are + verb. Can anyone come up with? And if this is the case, it's is there.

Also, StoneyB makes it clear - If e1 is positioned.... or e2 is positioned = If e1 or e2 is positioned...


Since 'or' is always a comparison of multiple nouns/things/objects, it's 'are'. You are right. The word 'is' can only refer to a singular object.

Thanks to Stoney for correcting me. The result of the word 'or' is to specify a singular object.

  • 3
    Not so. or is disjunctive, and the entities it joins are considered severally. "If e1 is positioned ... or e2 is positioned" ⇨ "If e1 or e2 is positioned ..." – StoneyB Jan 24 '14 at 0:47
  • What if I don't consider them severally? =P Proper English is common English. I would be very surprised if most people made that distinction in conversation. However, I will take notice in my writing from now on. Thanks again. – Mike S Jan 24 '14 at 1:20
  • 1
    If you're considering them jointly you use and... But or is tricky. If the entities it joins are both plural you cast your verb in the plural: "If the es or the fs are positioned..." And if one's plural and the other's singular you're up the creek: "If e1 or the fs ??? positioned ..." – StoneyB Jan 24 '14 at 1:28
  • Right. In that case you got some 'splainin to do. "If e1 is or the fs are...". As for the original question do you think it is better to say: "If either e1 or e2 is..."? – Mike S Jan 24 '14 at 2:15

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