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Has Ram or his friends come to school?

I am confused about the rule

When two subjects are joined by 'neither...nor', 'either-or','or' etc the verb follows the nearest subject (Ram) or the second subject(his friends). Which one is correct according to the grammar?

How it is different when subjects are joined by 'along with','with', 'together with'?( In these cases verb follows the first subject)

3 Answers 3

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The rule usually given in formal writing is that if a compound subject joined by “or” or “nor” has subjects that differ in number, the verb takes the number of the noun closest to the inflected part of the verb.

Either the elephant or the lions are coming by train.

Either the lions or the elephant is coming by train.

That makes sense in terms of sound. After a plural noun, we expect a plural verb. After a singular noun, we expect a singular verb. It is not so much logic as it is euphony.

When subject and verb are inverted to form a question, euphony again suggests having the inflected part of the verb agree in number with noun closest to that part of the verb.

Is the elephant or the lions coming by train?

Are the lions or the elephant coming by train?

“Nor” is a different kettle of fish. Many style manuals insist on treating “nor” like “or.”

Neither Susan nor Jane is coming

does sound fine, but it makes no logical sense because it means

Susan and Jane are not coming

Personally, I do not find

Neither Susan nor Jane are coming

offensive, but some people will.

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In the case of your example "Has Ram or his friends come to school?", have would be more appropriate. The subject of the sentence is 'Ram or his friends', taken as a group - as there's more than one of them and if any of them had come to school the answer to your question would be yes.

This is also the case in the sentence "Neither Ram nor his friends have come to school" for the same reason.

For 'along with' on the other hand, "Has Ram come to school along with his friends?" would be correct - the subject is Ram, and the case in which the answer would be 'yes' is modified by the presence of his friends: if he's come alone, the answer is no.

"Ram has come to school together with his friends." "Ram, together with his friends, has come to school." The word 'together' could be dropped from either of these sentences without changing the meaning or grammatical form. Again, the subject of the sentence is Ram himself, and the presence of his friends is just a condition.

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Has Ram or his friends come to school?

There are several possible answers depending on what you mean and how you say it:

Have {Ram or his friends} come to school? = Have they come to school?

Has Ram, or his friends, come to school = Has he (or, for that matter, any of his friends), come to school? ", or his friends," is in parenthesis and is not part of the subject.

Have {his friends or Ram} come to school. - Have they come to school?

Have his friends, or Ram, come to school. - Have they (or Ram, for that matter), come to school? See above.

Note how the verb agrees with the nearest subject noun or noun phrase (italicised).

If in doubt, change the noun/noun phrase into a pronoun.

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