Is "or or two" item singular or plural? Neither sounds right to me and google returns both, but I don't think they are both equally correct.


  • Is there a specific sentence you're using this in?
    – E.Aigle
    May 26, 2021 at 13:17
  • Compare the results for but one or two were and but one or two was in Google NGrams. That should tell you all you need to know. May 26, 2021 at 14:23

2 Answers 2


Your sentence does not explicate but nevertheless implies the second subject "kids," which I will show in parentheses. In answer to your question as it is written, you would use "were," as follows:

"A kid or two (kids) were..."

Whenever you have two subjects joined by the conjunction "or," the count of the subject nearer or nearest to the verb determines verb conjugation (see rule 4 - https://webapps.towson.edu/ows/sub-verb.htm). Since the subject "two (kids)" is closer to the verb, you use the plural conjugation "were."

However, that changes if the "or two" were to be encased by a comma on each side, like as an aside to mean "maybe two (kids)," as follows:

"A kid, or two (kids), was..."

The above being equivallent to saying:

"A kid (or two) was..."


"A kid (maybe two) was..."

That's because any information introduced by a conjunction that is separated off from the rest of the sentence by commas, one on each side (as opposed to simply an Oxford comma on one side in a list of more than two things), is supplying extraneous information that is not central to the operation of the sentence and may just as well be omitted without changing the gist of the sentence, so it does not count towards subject count in verb conjugation (see rule 5a - https://www.grammarbook.com/grammar/subjectverbagree.asp).

The reason I bring up this second example is that I believe it likely represents what you're trying to convey. That's because I'm having a tough time thinking of an example where one would say "a kid" and then conjoin "or two" to mean an alternative subject of two kids (i.e., a kid or two other kids) and not merely be expressing, as an aside, one's uncertainty and the possibility that there was instead a second kid with that first kid.


The plural takes the win here. The correct version is "a kid or two were". Here it reads as "a couple of kids", "one kid, maybe two". I'm not sure in what context you'd be describing the actions of kids and not be able to distinguish between one or two kids, but that's beside the point I guess.

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