In a technical book, I have stumbled upon the following sentence:

Here, resource-specification is a statement or statements that declares and initializes a resource.

I'm a bit confused about how the verbs declares and initializes are used here. Their form (third person singular) assumes that they are linked to a singular noun. But can statement or statements really be treated as some sort of a compound singular noun?

In other words, is everything correct with the example above, or one should modify it in some way to make it more grammatically consistent?

1 Answer 1


Weeellll, an argument could be made that the sentence should read like this:

Here, resource-specification is a statement or statements that declare and initialize a resource.

One noun is singular and the other is plural. In these cases, the verb should agree in number with the noun that is closest, e.g. statements (plural) not statement (singular).

  • Thank you for your answer! But is it based on some hard and fast rules of grammar, or it's more of a native speaker's intuition?
    – Semisonic
    Mar 28, 2015 at 11:35
  • 1
    It's a rule I've come across in multiple grammar guides. For example, see rule #13 on this website: grammar.yourdictionary.com/sentences/… Mar 28, 2015 at 12:04
  • Welcome, Semisonic! Have a good day. :) Mar 28, 2015 at 13:28

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