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were OR was?

English translation: depends on second conjunct

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03:28 Aug 10, 2006
English to English translations [PRO]
Art/Literary - Poetry & Literature / grammar
English term or phrase: were OR was?
But neither the witch nor her companion WERE to be seen. Where could they be?

Dear native English speakers!
Please advise which variant is more grammatically correct:
'neither X nor Y WERE to be seen'
OR
'neither X nor Y WAS to be seen'.
I believe it's 'were', but admit I may be wrong. I have noticed that the latter is as common on the Web as the former.
Andrew Vdovin
Local time: 05:55
English translation:depends on second conjunct
Explanation:
if the second conjunct is singulare, use "was"
if it's plural, use "were"

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 7 mins (2006-08-10 03:36:26 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

for ex:,
Netiher Mary nor John was to be seen
Neither Mary nor her sisters were to be seen.

However, it is also true that nowadays many native speakers use "were" all the time; in fact, it has become acceptacle in usage -i.e., informally.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 9 mins (2006-08-10 03:38:21 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

of course, I meant "singular," nit "singulare"!
also: acceptable, not acceptacle!
Sorry! My keyboard has been a bit strange lately.
Selected response from:

transparx
United States
Local time: 18:55
Grading comment
Thank you very much for your help! Thanks everybody!
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
4 +6wasRHELLER
5 +2depends on second conjuncttransparx


  

Answers


4 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +2
were or was?
depends on second conjunct


Explanation:
if the second conjunct is singulare, use "was"
if it's plural, use "were"

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 7 mins (2006-08-10 03:36:26 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

for ex:,
Netiher Mary nor John was to be seen
Neither Mary nor her sisters were to be seen.

However, it is also true that nowadays many native speakers use "were" all the time; in fact, it has become acceptacle in usage -i.e., informally.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 9 mins (2006-08-10 03:38:21 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

of course, I meant "singular," nit "singulare"!
also: acceptable, not acceptacle!
Sorry! My keyboard has been a bit strange lately.

transparx
United States
Local time: 18:55
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in ItalianItalian
PRO pts in category: 4
Grading comment
Thank you very much for your help! Thanks everybody!

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Uma Hariharan
14 mins
  -> thank you Uma

agree  xxxAlfa Trans
11 hrs
  -> thank you Marju
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

10 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +6
were or was?
was


Explanation:
Rule 2. Two singular subjects connected by either/or or neither/nor require a singular verb as in
Examples Neither Juan nor Carmen is available.
Either Kiana or Casey helps today with stage decorations.
------------------------------
example of an error
Neither Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code nor Sofia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette were well-received at the Cannes Film Festival, as film critics booed during the screening of each film.

This sentence contains an error in subject/verb agreement. When subjects in a sentence are linked by the correlative conjunctions "neither/nor," the subject that is closer to the verb determines the number of the verb. The "neither/nor" pairing of two singular subjects does not use a plural verb.



    Reference: http://www.grammarbook.com/grammar/subjectVerbAgree.asp
    Reference: http://celebritygrammar.wordpress.com/2006/05/
RHELLER
United States
Local time: 16:55
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 66

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Will Matter: This was my first thought when I looked at this earlier. // Plus ca change.... wink, wink.
7 mins
  -> yes it will and does matter :-)

agree  Uma Hariharan
9 mins
  -> thanks, Uma :-)

agree  Erich Ekoputra: Agree. Although it's a bit "inconsistent" IMO because when we use AND, we have to go with WERE. In logic / mathematics, OR can mean either one *or* both. ;)
26 mins
  -> this is not math, thanks Erich

agree  Veronica Prpic Uhing
27 mins
  -> thanks VPUHING :-)

agree  zaphod: As clumsy as it sounds, and as many times as I err, it's correct
4 hrs
  -> thanks, Peter :-)

agree  Alexander Demyanov
9 hrs
  -> thanks, Alex :-)
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