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Does this sentence call for the plural verb "were" here, or the singular "was"?

Neither he nor the others were aware of it

Neither he nor the others was aware of it

  • Both sound fine to me. I believe the "official" rule is that the verb should agree with the subject closest to it, so "the others were". But I suspect that in this case native English speakers don't actually use the "official" rule much of the time. – Peter Shor May 27 '14 at 13:31
  • Disjoined subjects are always troublesome, especially if the differ in number, as here. I'd agree they both sound OK. Remember, the auxiliary verb is there to carry a tense, and it's short and usually contracted. The job of the auxiliary verb is not to stand up tall and agree with something weird but "officially" correct, thus derailing the sentence by distracting attention from the predicate which it is supposedly "helping". The job of an auxiliary verb is to point to the predicate and then disappear, like a good servant. Worrying about agreement is counter-communicational effort. – John Lawler May 27 '14 at 14:06
  • This has been previously here, here, and the questions linked from these. Have a look around. Use the search. – RegDwigнt May 27 '14 at 14:16