When one refers to more than one indexed objects, should the leading noun (that is applied to every one of the objects) be singular or plural?

For example, which is correct?

  1. Cases 1 or 2

  2. Case 1 or 2

Note that in 1 "cases" is plural" and in 2 "case" is singular. The intended meaning is "case 1 or case 2" - any of the two cases.

(One may replace "case" with "theorem", "lemma", "assumption", etc., or "lot", "room", "level", "unit" ...)

What principle do we invoke here?

Note: The question is about the consistency between noun and index, not subject-verb agreement. In fact, the phrase here does not necessarily serve as the subject in a sentence; it can equally serve as the object or another part of speech. When it does serve as the subject, then the verb must agree with the form of noun chosen for it.

  • 2
    Possible duplicate of Should I say "A or B is" or "A or B are"? Also Is or Are with OR? Commented May 31, 2019 at 13:06
  • @FumbleFingers Those two questions are about subject-verb agreement - a different topic. My question doesn't have to do with the verb. If there was a verb, it would in turn depend on the choice of the noun, here "case" vs. "cases", which is my question.
    – tvk
    Commented Jun 1, 2019 at 15:03
  • It looks like the same "subject-verb agreement" question to me. You just haven't provided an example sentence with a verb, so you've reduced the issue to asking whether a compound subject that includes or is singular or plural. In context, this amount to asking which is correct out of 1: I say options 1 or 2 are acceptable, 2: He says option 1 or 2 is acceptable. Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 11:47
  • @FumbleFingers I disagree. Yours is a different question. One doesn't need an entire sentence to assess grammatical correctness. For example, "an options" is an incorrect phrase while "an option" is a correct phrase. To follow your example, my question could be equivalent to which of the phrases "options 1 or 2" and "option 1 or 2" is correct - note that they need not serve as the subject in a sentence. Of course when they do the verb must agree with the subject to be grammatical. But a phrase by itself (whether they serve as subject or another part of speech) can also be grammatical or not.
    – tvk
    Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 17:22
  • I won't keep arguing with you, but my final word on the subject is that both examples given in my previous comment are perfectly acceptable English. There's not really any concept of a "correct" version even with that full context supplied - and if anyone tells you different, I'd say they're guilty of misguided pedantry. Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 18:38


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