1

Most problem children neither like school nor do they feel comfortable there.

Most problem children neither like school nor feel comfortable there.

Would you please tell me which one is correct?

  • This might help. Try to think of the part "nor do they feel ..." the same way you think of "nor do I". – Damkerng T. Apr 11 '14 at 6:42
  • most problem children! Am I missing something? – Maulik V Apr 11 '14 at 9:42
  • 3
    Both sentences are fine. – Steve Melnikoff Apr 11 '14 at 9:48
  • @maulikv "Problem child" has been a euphemism since the early 20th century for children whose behavior causes problems for others. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 29 '14 at 17:31
  • @StoneyB It should take hyphen there for better understanding. What say? – Maulik V Apr 30 '14 at 5:52
4
  1. Most problem children neither like school nor do they feel comfortable there.
  2. Most problem children neither like school nor feel comfortable there.

Sentence 1 is ungrammatical. However, this is not because it uses inversion. It is because it misuses the neither X nor Y construction.

This construction coordinates two constituents—pieces of a clause—and the two constituents, X and Y, must be "parallel": they must be the same kind of constituent.

For instance:

I like neither warm beer nor cold pizza. ... warm beer and cold pizza are both noun phrases.
I neither like nor drink warm beer. ... like and drink are both verbs.
Cold pizza is neither tasty nor healthy. ... tasty and healthy are both adjectives.

In sentence 2 this rule is observed: both constituents are predicates or "VPs", both consist of a verb and its complement. These share the same subject, which lies before the neither X nor Y construction

  1. Most problem children neither like school nor feel comfortable there.

In sentence 2, however, the X piece after neither is a VP but the Y piece is a complete independent clause—it has a subject of its own, they.

  1. Most problem children neither like school nor do they feel comfortable there.

What probably confuses you is that there is another way of using nor, without neither.

In this use, nor joins two complete independent clauses, just like and or but. In this use the first clause must be a negative clause, and the second uses subject-auxiliary inversion, in the same way that a question does.

This is the correct way of using nor—note the change to the first clause:

1a. Most problem children do not like school, nor do they feel comfortable there.

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  • That's exactly what I'm saying: independent clauses are of the same 'rank'. Neither...nor coordinates constituents of the same rank; nor without neither coordinates clauses of the same rank. – StoneyB on hiatus May 4 '14 at 4:09
1

Either sentence could be plausibly spoken or written by a native English speaker. The second one has a much better style and is much more appropriate in writing.

An English speaker with a high school diploma might speak the first sentence, but will avoid it in writing.

The "nor do ..." construction is grammatical, and is an appropriate way to continue a thought, and not necessarily by the same speaker.

For instance:

A: I have neither the money nor connections to produce a hit record.

B: [Laughs] More importantly, nor do you have any talent.

B's sentence could be spoken by A also:

A: For that matter, nor do I have any talent, to be honest.

Note that this "nor do ..." is a new clause; a complete sentence. The previous sentence has ended already, and now A or B have an additional idea to add to the sentence, therefore starting a new sentence. This new sentence is not bound by the stylistic requirement of "neither ... nor ..." parallelism.

The problem in "most problem children neither like school nor do they ..." is that the first occurrence of "neither" requires at least one "nor". So the "nor" is a planned part of the sentence. When a speaker says "neither", we know that a "nor" phrase must be coming, otherwise it is not grammatical. This "planned nor" therefore should not take the form of an after-thought placed into a separate clause; it should be grammatically parallel to the "neither" phrase.

Only the third or subsequent "nor" can be a new clause which continues the thought in a way which breaks away from the parallelism.

Lastly, note that the sentence can be much improved by eliminating "neither". The "nor" particle can function on its own, without a prior "neither":

Most problem children do not like school nor do they feel comfortable there.

So it is plausible that the speaker or writer committed a hypercorrection, trying to adhere to a rule that "nor" requires "neither", which is false.

In the above sentence, it is plausible that the speaker made a complete thought expressed by "most problem children do not like school", and then added "nor do they feel comfortable there" as an additional thought which occurred after the first sentence was formed. Indeed, this corrected sentence can be broken into two sentences: one for the main thought, and the second for the additional thought:

Most problem children do not like school. Nor do they feel comfortable there.

The "neither ... nor" version cannot be separated this way. (Note: starting a sentence with "nor" is avoided in formal writing, but is acceptable in creative writing, and certainly in fictional dialog.)

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-1

Both sentences are correct. The first sentence has the inversion in the second part. We can have an inversion with so,neither,nor, as , to express agreement. (so with an affirmative statement), (Neither/nor with a negative sentence).In the second sentence we have a double conjunction, neither... nor As for "problem child", it is correct, as "problem" here is considered to be an adjective (only before a noun). A problem child is one that causes problems to other people.

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