If you or a team member needs / need any help during my vacation, please do not hesitate to contact me on my mobile phone.

Should I write need or needs?

  • 3
    This is one of the cases where native speakers tend not to have an intuition about the answer (or at least, not a consistent intuition) so we're thrown back on the "grammarians" who make things up - and they don't all make up the same rule. Neither answer seems 100% right to me, as a native speaker. so if anybody tells you there is a "right" answer, they're making it up, or believing somebody who made it up.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 15:08

3 Answers 3


In this case, I would go with "needs" like SarahT mentioned in her answer.

Generally, when we have two or more singular nouns or pronouns that are connected by or or nor, we use a singular verb.

Therefore, I would say

If you or a team member needs any help ...

And when we have a compound subject that contains a singular and a plural noun or pronoun connected by or or nor, we use the verb that agrees with the subject that is closest to the verb. This is what James K referred to in his comment.

If the second subject was plural (= team members), then I would use the plural verb:

If you or your team members need any help ...

What do authoritative and reputable sources say?

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS) 17th ed. says

When a verb has two or more subjects connected by and, it agrees with them jointly and is plural {Socrates and Plato were wise}. When a verb has two or more subjects connected by or or nor, the verb agrees with the last-named subject {Bob or his friends have your key} {neither the twins nor Jon is prepared to leave}. — 5.138: Agreement in person and number

This problem may also arise when using an either-or or neither-nor construction. The CMoS says that

... pronouns joined by or, either–or, or neither–nor are traditionally said to take the verb form that agrees with the nearer subject {either he or I am in for a surprise} {either you or he is right} {neither you nor I am a plumber}. — 5.143: Agreement in first and second person

The "supplemental materials" link in this APA Style Blog says

When the subject is composed of a singular and a plural noun joined by or or nor, the verb agrees with the noun that is closer.

The APA and MLA style guides say the same thing, only I can't quote them because I don't have full access to them. You can look them up online.


When joining a list of singular nouns with "or," use a singular verb. "If you or a team member needs any help..."

  • Also apply the tendency of "closest subject": "He or you are..." but "You or he is"
    – James K
    Commented Apr 5, 2020 at 17:37
  • Alright, but I am asking about "you" or a team member.
    – Costa
    Commented Apr 5, 2020 at 20:52
  • Team member is singular, so the answer applies to it as part of a list of singular nouns. Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 19:48
  • Right, technically the 2nd person singular and 2nd person plural of the verb "need" are both "need", so the question could be about singular vs. plural, but it could also be about whether to use the 2nd person singular or the 3rd person singular (what I thought). The right answer is thus the combination of Sarah's and James's answers. Here are some examples from other places: nimh.nih.gov/site-info/…, or google "if you or someone you know needs help"
    – RuslanD
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 9:22

The rule is that the verb in an or, either/or, or neither/nor sentence agrees with the noun or pronoun closest to it. (source)

As the verb follows "a team member", it should "needs":

If you or a team member needs any help...

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