Either Jack or you _____ doing this


1) was

2) were

3) is

4) had

My approach:

According to the subject verb agreement rule. 'Either' in the sentence should be followed by a singular form of the verb. So, according to my logic the answer should be "was".

Am I correct?

  • As per my knowledge, I would prefer 'were' with 'you'. Let the native speakers come. Btw, very interesting question! I would like to consider 'had' as well, but then, we need to put 'been' after had, I guess!
    – Rucheer M
    Aug 24 '15 at 11:02
  • As far as I know, if we have plural noun in the phrase " X or Y" ( one of the X or Y is plural or both of X and Y), we must use plural verbs. However, you can represent both singular and plural. That is my problem ! So lets wait for the natives !
    – Cardinal
    Aug 24 '15 at 11:30
  • If you like 'was', then 'is' is just as valid. Nothing in the question gives a clue as to tense.
    – amI
    Feb 2 '18 at 22:07

You're correct in thinking that the singular form of the verb should be used, but the singular past tense of 'be' can be 'I was', 'You were', or 'He/She/It was'. As the verb follows 'you', it should be 'were'.

  • 1
    this better goes as a comment iMO
    – Maulik V
    Aug 24 '15 at 11:22
  • So how do you feel about "Either Jack or I am doing this" ?
    – amI
    Feb 2 '18 at 22:08
  • @MaulikV Not really - it’s an answer.
    – Steve Ives
    Feb 2 '18 at 22:20
  • @amI A native English speaker would say “Either Jack or I are doing this”, but it still sounds odd. “Either Jack or I will do it” is better.or “Jack’s doing it or I am”.
    – Steve Ives
    Feb 2 '18 at 22:27
  • I think that contradicts your answer. You are choosing plural agreement, not agreement with the pronoun.
    – amI
    Feb 2 '18 at 22:30

There is a difference between

Either jack was doing this and

Either jack or you were doing this.

In the formal sentence,we use a singular verb always where as in the latter

It depends If both are singular nouns we use a singular verb and if one of them is plural we use a plural verb.In this Example We use a plural verb based on "you".Hence were.

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