There is some confusion over whether to use a singular or a plural verb when using the famous connectors or, either . . . or, neither . . . nor, or not only . . . but also. Here is a quick rundown that should help.
If you are connecting singular words using or, either . . . or, neither . . . nor, or not only . . . but also, the subject is singular, so you would use a singular verb.
- Either Mary or Patsy is working overtime tonight.
- Neither peanut butter nor jelly is in my cupboard.
Note that it is now also acceptable to connect more than two words using the connectors above.
- Neither paper nor toner nor a manual was included with the new printer.
If you are connecting two or more plural words using or, either . . . or, neither . . . nor, or not only . . . but also, the subject is plural, so you would use a plural verb.
- Either books or magazines are available in the doctor’s office.
- Neither beans nor noodles are in my cupboard.
When you are using a mix of singular and plural words connected with or, either . . . or, neither . . . nor, or not only . . . but also, the verb should agree with the nearer part of the subject.
- Either a diamond necklace or pearls go with that evening gown.
- Either pearls or a diamond necklace goes with that evening gown.
- Neither the boss nor the workers expect to work late.
- Neither the workers nor the boss expects to work late.
I hope this helps. Do you have a topic that continues to confuse you? Either leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and watch for a future blog post trying to make that topic easier to understand.