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A friend wants to write,

There is no hardware to purchase, no additional software to install and no key fobs to worry about.

This is awkward because the verb "is" doesn't match up with the third item, which is plural and demands "There are" as the subject. However,

There is no hardware to purchase, no additional software to install and there are no key fobs to worry about.

sounds awkward as well.

Is there a good workaround for this problem where some list items are singular and some are plural, so they don't share a common verb?

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3 Answers

Is there a good workaround for this problem...?

There is no problem. Your friend’s sentence conforms perfectly to the rules of Standard English grammar and good writing style. The verb should agree with the first item in the list. I.e.

There is a cat and two dogs.

There are two dogs and a cat.

Your suggested alternative is wrong. If you insist on doing it that way, you should either write:

There is no hardware to purchase, there is no additional software to install and there are no key fobs to worry about.

or:

There is no hardware to purchase and no additional software to install; and there are no key fobs to worry about.

but your friend’s original sentence is better than either of these.

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I think in this case you could make all of your list items plural:

There are no additional hardware purchases, software installs, or key fobs to worry about.

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With compound antecedents connected by or or nor, make the pronoun agree with the nearer antecedent.

If one of the antecedents is singular and the other is plural, put the plural one last to avoid awkwardness.

--Hacker, Rules for Writers

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Agreed. OP is simply being pedantic in claiming there's anything "technically incorrect" here. –  FumbleFingers Mar 2 '12 at 2:55
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