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For some verbs a subjunctive form is used in the subordinate clause, and I would write

I demand that he read the appendices.

Other verbs demand that you use an indicative form, for example

I expect that he will read the appendices.

So how do I terminate the sentence

You cannot demand nor expect that he...

I know that you can always avoid that sort of construction, but I was just wondering about the grammatical rule in this case.

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Good question. Likewise, I'd just avoid it entirely, but it is interesting to consider. –  Jon Hanna Feb 15 '13 at 13:16
    
While a little stilted, perhaps, is there anything wrong with the following? You can neither demand that he read nor expect that he will read the appendices. –  rhetorician Feb 15 '13 at 17:32

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The difficulty arises from the different constructions that can follow the two verbs demand and expect. You can demand that someone do something, but you can’t expect that someone do something. It follows that it is not grammatically coherent to say either ‘You cannot demand nor expect that he read the appendices’ or ‘You cannot demand nor expect that he reads the appendices’ or ‘You cannot demand nor expect that he will read the appendices’ is.

Not only can you avoid that sort of construction, as you suggest, but you must, if you want to make life easy for the reader. A possible alternative is ‘You cannot demand that he read the appendices, and you cannot expect him to either.’

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I don't agree that one must, though I will agree that one should. –  Jon Hanna Feb 15 '13 at 13:15
    
Hey, it was the OP who requested a rule! I suppose 'avoid grammatical syllepsis' works. –  Edwin Ashworth Feb 15 '13 at 15:59
    
Yes, guys, as a rule this is clear. –  The Frog Feb 15 '13 at 16:13

Fortunately, English has an auxiliary verb that goes with both demand and expect:

You cannot demand or expect that he should read the appendices.

But this doesn't answer the question for general pairs of verbs.

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I know of no absolute rule, and so would depend upon the proximity principle to produce something that hopefully read well:

You cannot demand nor expect that he will read the appendices.

You cannot expect nor demand that he read the appendices.

The proximity principle is more an observation than a rule - in cases where there is a conflict of agreement because of two or more words being joined by a conjunction that would require a different number, mood, etc. in what follows, then make the agreement happen with those words that are closer to each other and it will tend to sound correct whether it is or not!

However, if what was added could be read as a parenthetical clause, then I would treat it as if it could be omitted:

You cannot demand, nor expect, that he read the appendices.

You cannot expect, nor demand, that he will read the appendices.

Again though, I know of no absolute rule.

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I read that the proximity rule is acceptable in speech but not in writing. As you say, "it will tend to sound correct whether it is or not". So, it is probably best to avoid such construct in formal writing, as your comment to Barrie's post suggests. –  The Frog Feb 15 '13 at 16:05
    
Pretty much. Just how much the proximity rule helps you out varies from case to case, but it's never a matter of a clear rule to follow, always of something that makes conflicting cases sound better. I would definitely re-write to avoid the issue entirely, in practice, but it is certainly an interesting question to consider. –  Jon Hanna Feb 15 '13 at 16:15
    
@Jon Hanna: While a little stilted, perhaps, is there anything wrong with the following? You can neither demand that he read nor expect that he will read the appendices. –  rhetorician Feb 15 '13 at 17:42
    
@rhetorician I see nothing one could argue technically wrong, but boy it is stilted. I'd prefer one of my examples, and they're only offered as best-within-the-contraints. That said, there's something stilted about people demanding and expecting appendices be read anyway. It gets hard to talk about relative fluidity and euphony when there's more at play than just the factor under discussion. –  Jon Hanna Feb 15 '13 at 17:46
    
@jon Hanna: there's something stilted about people demanding and expecting appendices be read anyway. Maybe, but the negative statement, You cannot demand, nor even expect, is not particularly stilted. –  The Frog Feb 15 '13 at 22:59

In general, when we factor out into a list, we make the common factor agree with the closest member of the list. For example:

There was a cat and two dogs.

There were two dogs and a cat.

You can neither demand, nor expect that he will read the appendices.

You can neither expect, nor demand that he read the appendices.

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Shouldn't it be "There were a cat and two dogs." I would think that "a cat and two dogs" form a plural subject. What if "there were a dog and a cat"? –  Tragicomic Feb 15 '13 at 16:40
    
Yes Tragicomic, I had the same thought. –  The Frog Feb 15 '13 at 22:53
    
@Tragicomic I am informed that, if you examine the natural speech of native speakers, you will find that "There was a cat and two dogs." is preferred. Most style guides and grammar textbooks also prefer this form. –  Pitarou Feb 16 '13 at 7:49
    
@Pitarou: Thanks. You're probably right about the speech of native speakers. Can you provide references to a style guide or a grammar textbook? This is very interesting and quite far from the prescriptive grammar I've been taught. –  Tragicomic Feb 18 '13 at 17:50
    
@Tragicomic: I'm actually oversimplifying a little. "There were a cat and two dogs." is acceptable, but it cannot be considered a factorization of "There was a cat and there were two dogs." Some prefer "There were a cat and..." because they are uncomfortable with the idea that "there was" + "there were" can be factored into a single "there was", but most quality grammar guides have no problem with it. I don't have any guides to hand right now, but here's a quote from Merriam-Webster: ask.metafilter.com/84536/There-is-or-There-are#c1250755 –  Pitarou Feb 19 '13 at 3:19

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