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This question already has an answer here:

I'm curious which I should use of the following:

  1. If you or someone you know are having troubles logging on to VMware, please ask Bob Smith for help.

  2. If you or someone you know is having troubles logging on to VMware, please ask Bob Smith for help.

Where VMware is the name of a computer network system / software.

marked as duplicate by phenry, tchrist, Kris, anongoodnurse, FumbleFingers Jun 26 '14 at 12:54

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    The verb agrees with the closer alternative. – tchrist Jun 26 '14 at 1:11
  • @phenry no, that question explains "A and B is/are", but not "A or B is/are," which is the question here. – Kevin Jun 26 '14 at 1:46
  • Judging by the question @phenry linked to, it depends on whether VMware is singular or plural. "If you or someone you know is having car troubles" vs. "If you or someone you know are having infestation troubles" – Frank Jun 26 '14 at 1:50
  • @Frank That’s immaterial. Of the two pieces of the disjunct subject, “someone you know” is the closer to the verb, and so being singular demands singular concordance. – tchrist Jun 26 '14 at 3:57
  • See also, English Language Learners – Kris Jun 26 '14 at 7:09
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The general rule is that if you have two subjects joined by or, the verb agrees with the proximate or nearest subject. Theoretically, therefore, you should say:

  • If you or someone you know is having trouble logging on to VMware, please ask Bob Smith for help

However, it is possible to make or someone you know look or sound like a parenthetical insertion (eg say 'someone you know' in an undertone). In this case, I might want to get the verb to agree with the first subject:

  • If you (or someone you know) are having trouble logging on to VMware, please ask Bob Smith for help
  • If you - or someone you know - are having trouble logging on to VMware, please ask Bob Smith for help

All of this is of course potentially awkward, and the best solution might be just to avoid this altogether and recast your sentence! If anyone is having trouble ..., If you or any people you know are having trouble .... It isn't always cowardly to avoid an awkward construction.

  • Parentheticals are not in context. The answer is simple as contained in the first sentence. The first sentence of your answer is the correct and complete answer. That's an ELL question. – Kris Jun 26 '14 at 7:08
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If the question is specifically the conflict between "someone is" and "you are" when combined as "you or someone": It becomes a matter of proximity.

If you, or someone you know, is... (because "someone" occurs immediately before the verb)

If someone you know, or you yourself, are... (because "you" occurs immediately before the verb).

I don't know whether there's an official rule to cover this, beyond that fact that the alternatives produce the unnatural-sounding "someone are" and "you is" phrases.

  • Correct logic. However, though you can be singular, it always takes are -- that's the OP's question. – Kris Jun 26 '14 at 7:07
  • @Kris: Rewrote. Better? – keshlam Jun 26 '14 at 14:25

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