From Barron's 6 ACT Practice Tests:

The books are either explicit, describe graphic violence, or use questionable language.

Is this grammatically correct? If not, is there any way to parallel "A be B" and "A do C"?

I am not a native English speaker. I take the quoted sentence as:

The books are explicit. They describe graphic violence. They use questionable language.

3 Answers 3


Switch "are" and "either" and it should be fine, because then you have three clauses that are all describe qualities of the book.

  • 2
    I'd separate the 'either are' purely for style reasons: The books either describe graphic violence, are explicit, or use questionable language. Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 11:15
  • I wouldn't argue against that.
    – JenSCDC
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 11:39

Your initial sentence is incorrect because you are telling me that the books are; explicit and graphically violent OR they use questionable language.
If you want to tell the reader that the books contain all three aspects then you can try the following:
The books are explicit, describing graphic violence and use questionable language.
If by explicit, you mean, sexually explicit then you need to include that.


I love to look at sentences like this as a math problem and it always works. (logic being the mother of all things)

x(a+b+c) : This would apply the effect of x to all a,b, and c.

Same way, If you put "either" before "are", you'd have a structure like:
The books either(are explicit + describe graphic violence + use questionable language)

And just like the mathematical expression equates to xa + xb + xc, your individual sentences should make sense. (In this case, make the allowance for either/or)

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