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I'm positive this is an acceptable usage of "nor," but I can't find a rule that explains the usage. Please help!

He was too tired to walk to the next open crossing. Nor to start an argument.

  • Nor can stand on it's own. It's acceptable but, but here it 1) starts a segment fragment, and 2) sounds weird. Or would be better, unless your preceding sentence contained a negative. (E.g. He hadn't the energy to walk far, nor the will to start an argument.) – anongoodnurse Nov 10 '14 at 1:25
  • possible duplicate of Do the tug of war rules have a typo? ("Or" vs. "nor") – anongoodnurse Nov 10 '14 at 1:26
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The sentences in your example are pieces of a longer logical line of thought in which putting "Nor" at the beginning of the second sentence makes perfectly good sense, but only if you provide enough clues about the line of thought to carry the reader or listener with you. Here's how you might express the full line of thought:

He was too tired to walk to the next open crossing. Or to put the same idea in negative form, he didn't have the energy to walk to the next open crossing. Nor did he have the energy to start an argument.

As the expanded form of the wording makes clear, this line of thought has three distinct steps: (1) describing the person as being too tired to do something; (2) transforming the affirmative first statement into a negative equivalent, by describing the person as not having enough energy to do something; (3) adding, in parallel to the negative second statement, a third statement, also negative, but with the negative sense of the statement emerging from the opening word nor.

As you can see, if you restate the first sentence as the (negative) second sentence before proceeding to the third sentence, the first statement ceases to be necessary to conveying the basic sense of the original two sentences which is, expressed affirmatively,

  1. He was too tired to walk to the next open crossing.

  2. He was also too tired to start an argument.

or, expressed negatively,

  1. He didn't have the energy to walk to the next open crossing.

  2. He also didn't have the energy to start an argument. [Or alternatively: Nor did he have the energy to start an argument.]

Presented with these two forms of the new (and trimmer) logical progression of the original ideas, we can shorten the wording further by removing some of the repetitious wording from the second parallel phrase in each case. We can boil the affirmative wording down to

He was too tired to walk to the next open crossing. Or to start an argument.

And we can boil the negative wording down to either

He didn't have the energy to walk to the next open crossing. Or to start an argument.

or

He didn't have the energy to walk to the next open crossing. Nor to start an argument.

Since the phrase "He was too tired" is understood to be the base for the parallel phrases "to walk to the next open crossing" and "to start an argument" in the affirmatively expressed pair, replacing the second occurrence of "He was too tired" with "or" is easy for the reader or listener to recognize and interpret correctly.

Likewise, a straightforward version of the negatively expressed pair would have "He didn't have the energy" as the base and "to walk to the next open crossing" and "to start an argument" as parallel phrases, with "or" again replacing the second iteration of "He didn't have the energy." But starting the second sentence with "Nor" effectively inverts the form of the second idea, from "He didn't have the energy to start an argument" to "Nor did he have the energy to start an argument." The sentence still has a negative form, but the negation flows from "nor did he" rather than from "he didn't."

That's why both

He didn't have the energy to walk to the next open crossing. Or to start an argument.

and

He didn't have the energy to walk to the next open crossing. Nor to start an argument.

make immediate logical sense. In the first instance, the reader/hearer is asked to apply the "He didn't have the energy" base to the second parallel phrase. And in the second instance, the reader/hearer is asked to apply the inverted form of the base phrase—namely, "Nor did he have the energy"—to the second parallel phrase. Either way, the reader/listener is in little danger of being left behind as the writer/speaker moves on to the next point in the narrative.

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