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We have been asked to correct the error in the sentence:

Either he or I is right.

The only possible change that I can think of goes like this:

Either I or he is right.

Am I right? It will be helpful if someone can state the rules for such sentences as I am unable to understand why the first sentence is wrong.

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Either he or I am right is the answer.

The subject-verb agreement rule for either...or and neither... nor says that the verb will agree with the subject that is closest to it. Proximity of the subject to the verb is the only thing that matters when it's a question of either...or or neither ...nor.

Some may argue that even Either I or he(closest subject) is(verb) right is correct, but I think it's better to put he before I.(There is a name for this rule that I cannot recollect, it's called some 'donkey' rule.)

Check this out for more information: subject-verb agreement

  • I stand corrected. Proximity determines the number. – Robert Ruork Jun 12 '15 at 3:39
  • The first-person pronoun's being put last isn't really a rule of grammar; it's just customary. – Anonym Jun 12 '15 at 3:55
  • Yeah, it's not a rule but people call it something. For courtesy's sake, people put 'I' after other second person pronouns. – Aishwarya A R Jun 12 '15 at 3:56
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Actually, I believe you have answered your own question when you ask "Am I right?"

The verb "to be" is is very irregular. Your query is an excellent example of how tough it can be.

I am afraid that to be grammatically correct you are stuck with separating the two subjects he and I and treat them according to normal rules:

"Either he is right or I am" or "Either I'm right or he is"

  • But rephrasing as you did makes it an unequivocally exclusive or, whereas the original does not, technically, deny the possibility that both are right. Of course, most readers will assume the exclusive or. – Brian Hitchcock Jun 12 '15 at 8:14
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Here's a vote for "Either him or me is right."

Back in 1964 in his classic article Negation in English, Edward Klima proposed a rule to describe contemporary English: the subjective forms of pronouns are used only for the unconjoined subjects of explicit finite verbs. In your example, the subject of "is" is conjoined (or "disjoined", if you like), so "I" and "he" are not appropriate. That leaves "me" and "him".

If instead of descriptive linguistic principle, you want to find some prescriptive grammar authority to tell you what's "correct", you're on your own.

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