The sentence is:

Neither of the two girls said their prayer before going to bed.

Since we use a singular verb after "Neither" in this case, should the determiner before "prayer" also be singular? I have the following options in mind:

  1. said her prayer
  2. said their prayers
  3. said their prayer

I have a doubt about 2 and 3 as well. Since both the girls will say their respective prayers, is usage of "prayer" wrong in this context?

  • 1
    There are a number of points at issue here. I'm not clear what you mean by a "singular verb". As it's past tense how do you know? Singular "prayer" is perfectly idiomatic as in "Neither ate their breakfast before going to school". (Though prayer is usually spoken of in the plural (prayers) even where just one person is involved). "Her" can be substituted for "their", since the latter is being employed as the "singular they". Had inanimate objects been the subject, you would not have used "their". E.g. in "Neither car had its windscreen wipers working" you would not use "their".
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 16:04
  • I meant the general rule is to use singular, for example, "neither of them 'goes' to school regularly". I was wondering if that has any link between this verb and the subsequent word choice (their/her). Could you please explain why in case of inanimate objects, we cannot use "their"?
    – Shef
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 16:59
  • 1. But "said" is both singular and plural. So it is not telling us anything as regards number. 2. "They", "their" and "them" are sometimes used as singular pronouns, usually where the gender of the person concerned is not known. But this rule does not apply with inanimates where "it" is the pronoun of use.
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 17:45
  • @Shef Why don't you change the tense of the verb to the present "Neither of the two girls says/say her/their prayer(s) before going to bed". The topic of verb agreement with "neither of the two girls" can then be discussed.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 18:58
  • 1
    To 'say one's prayers' is an idiomatic expression meaning to spend time praying. As WS2 says, it is usually spoken of in the plural even if only one prayer is actually being used. Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 8:58

1 Answer 1


I think the answer you're after is the number (singular or plural) of a verb must agree with its subject. There is no grammatical requirement for the number of any objects of verbs to also agree.

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