Agreement with disjunctive subjects

Arnold Zwicky @ Language Log says:

(1) When all parts of a subject joined by or or nor are singular, the verb is singular; when all parts are plural, the verb is plural

The fact is that clause (1) (slightly amended, to get the person issue out of the way) is utterly uncontroversial; I’m not aware of variation on this point, and I doubt that anyone needs to be told what to do when confronted by disjunctive subjects of the same number (and person).

Am I the only person who speaks an idiolect on which:

  • Neither Barbara nor Sam is able to …

is dubious and 

  • Neither Barbara nor Sam are able to …

is clearly correct?

I don’t need to be told what to do, he’s right about that. But I do the precise opposite of what he thinks everyone does.

One thought on “Agreement with disjunctive subjects

  1. No, you are not. But, as I was remarking to Ann last week, more and more I am hearing people use “is” in the plural rather than “are”. I can’t tell if it’s a recent phenomenon or whether I am just now noticing it and it has been happenening all along. But it is somewhat disturbing.

Comments are closed.