1. Neither the plates nor the serving bowl goes on that shelf.
  2. Neither the plates nor the serving bowl go on that shelf.

What form of the verb is better in this context, singular or plural? Which is correct and why?

marked as duplicate by tchrist, Edwin Ashworth, Chenmunka, Tushar Raj, anongoodnurse Jul 10 '15 at 5:10

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  • Answered at "Neither Michael nor Albert is correct" or "Neither Michael nor Albert are correct"? – Edwin Ashworth – Edwin Ashworth Jul 4 '15 at 14:04
  • 1
    I'd strongly suggest you seek the info that's in a decent usage dictionary, such as the Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage (MWCDEU). My copy of MWCDEU discusses this very issue on pages 520-1 as #5 of the "neither" entry. :) – F.E. Jul 4 '15 at 17:07

Obey your manual of style, either the one you choose or the one thrust upon you. I use The Chicago Manual of Style, which says to choose the number of the noun closest to the verb.

Neither the plates nor the serving bowl goes on that shelf.
Neither the serving bowl nor the plates go on that shelf.

  • Would that be the same for "The plates and the serving bowl"? If so, it seems wrong to me. If not it seems inconsistent (The Chicago Manual of Style's rule I mean) – Avon Jul 4 '15 at 10:28
  • @Avon: It's not inconsistent. For and, the number of the subjects is unambiguously plural. That's not the case with neither-nor. – Tushar Raj Jul 4 '15 at 10:40
  • @TusharRaj You're quite right. Brain isn't working. Nor is not nand. – Avon Jul 4 '15 at 10:47
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    @Tushar Raj It is inconsistent. The attempt to use the expression logically, that is. It's bound to be, because you're trying to get one utilisation of a verb to do the work of two (in different declensions) (The plates do not go on that shelf and the bowl does not go on that shelf). No style guide can do better than a fudge with 'Neither A and B, nor C, ...'. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 4 '15 at 14:10
  • @EdwinAshworth: No no, I surmised that Avon was talking about this case: ''The plates and the bowl go...", wothout neither-nor anywhere. Judging from his answer, I think he was indeed. – Tushar Raj Jul 4 '15 at 16:51

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