I've just proofread something - the writer had put "She denies any change in mood nor any sweating". The "nor" just sounded wrong to me; I usually do my grammar by instinct, but when I'm unsure I check it. Most of the references I can find say that "nor" should come after a negative verb phrase. I suppose the writer's argument is that "deny" is sufficiently negative to replace "neither" in this case, but it grates my ear. Guidance, please?

  • Yes, "deny" is a covertly negative item. It can be paraphrased as "She says that she hasn't /hadn't had any change change in mood". There is no possibility of adding and or or before "nor" here, so there is good reason to treat nor as a negative coordinator. Nevertheless, the context is insufficiently negative to justify "nor", so it should be "or". – BillJ Dec 14 '16 at 19:51

In this case, trust your instincts. Both "change in mood" and "sweating" are targets of she denies which is what she does in this clause. "She doesn't deny" or "She denies neither" would invert the verb. That doesn't happen here.

Extensively, any time you see nor without a parallel neither or a literal or conjunctive not, it will be out of place. There are very few exceptions to this rule.

See also: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/questions-and-negative-sentences/neither-neither-nor-and-not-either


Trust hawkeyegold and please also note couple of lesser niggles.

Is ‘proofread’ in any way relevant here? Would it make any difference if you’d simply said ‘read’, please?

Do you think ‘it grates my ear’ is correct? I’ve never heard it put that way but always ‘it grates on my hearing’.

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