... ...in talking of library rules... ...

“No cameras are allowed. And neither is making copies of anything.”

How can I understand grammatically the use of ‘neither’ here? Neither is followed by linking verb ‘is’ means it is a subject of this sentence, but neither can not be a subject , right?

  • I do understand the meaning of this sentence, but I can not analize it with my limited grammar knowledge. – Quan Lee Mar 23 '19 at 0:51

I can understand why it is confusing.

"Neither" always needs to refer to two things, but the author has divided what might be a natural sentence with a full stop. Better grammarians than me may give more detail (or say that I'm completely wrong), but I think this is what is going on:

[No cameras] are allowed.

"No cameras" is the subject. "Are allowed" is the verb.

And neither is [making copies of anything].

"Making copies of anything" is also the subject, joined by the conjunction "and neither" to the previous sentence. Together they are the compound subject of "[are/is] not allowed". But it is confusing, because the main part of the verb which goes with "making copies of anything" is in a completely difference sentence, and you just have the auxiliary verb 'is'. But "neither" always has to have two things which it refers to, so we need to look in a different sentence for its "pair".

Finally, when "neither" is used with "not" the order of the subject and verb is inverted. Hence, the subject comes after 'is'.

People divide sentences up like this for emphasis. By punctuating it this way, the author is making it very clear that "making copies of anything" is completely forbidden. The result can often be sentence fragments or short phrases standing alone in ways that probably look odd to English learners.

Don't walk on the grass. That means you!

George, don't do that! And you Henry.

I'm going to make sure it doesn't happen. Not on my watch.

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The sentence you quoted uses neither to implicitly continue the use of allowed from the first sentence to the second sentence.

Neither is used to negate two subjects, so you could say "cameras are not allowed, and neither [allowed] is making copies". An equivalent expression would be "cameras are not allowed, and making copies is also not allowed". Thus, you can replace neither with also not allowed in the original sentence:

"No cameras are allowed. Also not allowed is making copies of anything."

The second sentence is written in an inverted form, so you could rearrange it by placing the subject, making copies of anything, at the beginning to make it sound more natural or understandable.

"No cameras are allowed. Making copies of anything is also not allowed."

Here is my best guess as to why the original sentence was written in this way:

To use neither to refer to both subjects in just one sentence, it is best to use two singular subjects or two plural subjects:

"Neither cameras nor phones are allowed." → Cameras are not allowed, and phones are not allowed.

"Neither printing nor making copies is allowed." → Printing is not allowed, and making copies is not allowed.

Since the original sentence has one plural subject and one singular subject, it would sound incorrect to use neither to refer to both in a single sentence.

"Neither cameras nor making copies are allowed." → Cameras are not allowed, and making copies are🚫 not allowed.

"Neither cameras nor making copies is allowed." → Cameras is🚫 not allowed, and making copies is not allowed.

I would guess that the writer chose to separate the two subjects, cameras and making copies of anything, and use neither is to refer only to the second subject, in order to avoid this subject-verb disagreement.

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Whoever wrote those two sentence doesn't speak English, or at least not well. "No cameras are allowed" makes sense, but the follow up admonition, "And neither is making copies of anything" doesn't make any sense. It probably depends on where you came upon these sentences side-by-side. Was it posted on a sign? If it were on a sign post, I think the intention was to say something like "no cameras or picture taking allowed" or something like that. Making copies of something is something you do in an office with a copy machine. But whoever wrote this might be confusing "copying" with taking photographs with a camera. It´s just an odd-sounding phrase that it is really is unintelligible (the two together). No surprise you don't understand them together. I'm sure no one does.

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  • 1
    I don't agree. This is a very common way, if perhaps a little informal, of making a statement more emphatic. Native speakers use it all the time. The second sentence only 'doesn't make sense' if you insist that punctuation is part of grammar. It isn't, or not in the way you mean. As spoken, without punctuation at all, the two sentences makes perfect grammatical sense together. The fact the author used a full stop and not a comma does not change that. – fred2 Mar 23 '19 at 3:58

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