Which is correct: a name or number was/were nowhere to be found.

closed as off-topic by tchrist Sep 8 '18 at 17:32

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  • I think this might be to do with whether "a name or number" is considered plural or not. – Pam Jun 10 '18 at 9:03
  • This is a duplicate. – tchrist Aug 9 '18 at 16:02

A name or number was nowhere to be found. Both name and number are singular nouns, so was is correct.

The rule is that when the subjects are joined by “or” or “neither/nor,” the verb agrees with the subject that is closest to the verb:

  1. The piano or the book case has to go. BUT The piano or the tables have to go.
  2. Neither the pillows nor the curtains match the couch. BUT Neither the pillows nor the blanket looks good in this room.

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