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I came across this sentence:

Cummings Motors, Smith Electric nor our subcontractors can be held liable.

Is this a proper use of the word nor?

I can understand

Neither Cummings Motors nor Smith Electric nor our subcontractors can be held liable.

But nor without neither? What about neither, nor, nor? Is one nor sufficient?

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1 Answer 1

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You can only use "nor" between two noun phrases if you have already introduced the negative. It is part of the "neither...nor" construct, which is negative form of "either...or". Strictly speaking, too, the form is only permissible when there are two options, but I have seen the count extended by repeating the "or/nor".

Further, don't fall into the double negative: "Neither ...nor.... can" NOT "Neither...nor... cannot...".

So your phrase should look something like "Neither Cummings Motors nor Smith Electric nor our subcontractors can be held liable".

Thinking a bit further, however, this looks like an excerpt from a piece of legal text; in that case there are probably more specialized grammatical structures ("legalese") that you should consider using.

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  • I might have said 'None of Cummings Motors, Smith Electric, nor our subcontractors can be held liable'.
    – WS2
    Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 20:13
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    Your first sentence is absolutely wrong; see english.stackexchange.com/q/170696/8019. Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 12:28
  • @TimLymington See OED2 sense 3b.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 17:04

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