1. An obvious communicator assumes that the listener is unaware of background information or related issues, and therefore provides them in the advertisement.

  2. Its goal will be to create a positive mood or feeling about the product. As a result, movie stars and celebrities often appear in advertisements to create these kinds of moods.

Can we use pronoun 'them' to indicate 'background information or related issues' as in sentence 1?

Can we use demonstrative adjective 'these' to indicate 'a positive mood or feeling about the product' as in sentence 2?

Since the subject 'A or B' takes a singular verb form in terms of subject verb agreement, I thought matching pronoun/demonstrative adjective of 'A or B' should be a singular one, too. However, obviously, I found many examples where 'A or B' takes a plural pronoun/demonstrative adjective.

In addition, in case of 'A or B + verb', when both A and B are plural nouns, do we still use a singular verb? How about when only one of them is a singular noun?

  • 2
    With respect to your question about 1, yes. About 2, there's a mismatch between "mood or feeling" and "these kinds of moods". By preference, "a positive mood and feelings" (moods and feelings differ), followed by "to create these." Omit "kinds of moods", or change it to include both moods and feelings.
    – JEL
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 0:34

2 Answers 2


The rule is simple: when using "A or B", the subsequent pronoun must match the plurality of B.

The listener is unaware of background information or related issues, but still comments on them.


The listener is unaware of related issues or background information, but still comments on it.

A similar rule regarding the subject of a sentence is that when presented with "A or/nor B", the subsequent verb matches the plurality of B.

Neither the background information nor the related issues were available to the listener.

Neither the related issues nor the background information was available to the listener.

  • 1
    This answer is wrong. The stated rule is correct, but in the example, the subject is listener, and so it should be comments. Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 11:33
  • 1
    @PeterShor thanks for pointing that out! Somehow I missed that while focusing on the them/it at the end.
    – narx
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 18:07

In response to Narx: your simple rule of thumb is incorrect, I'm afraid.

"The listener is unaware of background information or related issues, but still comment on them."

The subject of "comment" is the "listener", so it must be in the singular form ("comments")

Similarly, the listener is unaware of two things "related issues / background info", so it's "them" regardless of their order.


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