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Do the girl or the boys like to play soccer?
Does the girl or the boys like to play soccer?

Which of the above is correct?

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    Generally such structure is avoided, since there is no satisfactory way to do it. Among other things there is an ambiguity as to whether you mean any of the boys or all of the boys. – Hot Licks Mar 14 '19 at 2:18
  • Hello Hot Licks, thanks for getting back. If we HAVE to pick one , which one do you think is more correct, assuming I am refering to all of the boys. – Huli Mar 14 '19 at 3:16
  • The girl or the boys like to play soccer. The boys or the girl likes to play soccer. For these two sentences, we choose the subject that is closer to the verb – Huli Mar 14 '19 at 3:16
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    Possible duplicate of Singular or plural verb after a series connected by "or" – herisson Apr 16 '19 at 18:30
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The best solution is to rephrase the sentence.


However, in a comment under the question you asked, "If we HAVE to pick one, which one do you think is more correct, assuming I am refering to all of the boys?"

First of all, the following is ungrammatical:

✘ Do the girl . . .

By that standard alone, your second sentence, despite being awkward, is the only one that's grammatical.


However, there is a better alternative. To emphasizes plurality, do so at the start of the sentence by reversing the order of the nouns. In other words:

✔ Do the boys or the girl like to play soccer?

The sentence starts off the correct way with do the boys, using a plural verb and a plural noun. When you get to the end of the sentence, it is mentally translated to account for an elided does the girl like soccer, which is also correct.

In other words, it (mentally) becomes:

Do the boys or [does] the girl like to play soccer?

It's still awkward because normal elision would have us interpret the same verb form applying to both nouns—and it's impossible for that to happen.

However, given that no matter what we use (barring revision) it's going to end up being awkward, this seems like the least awkward of the possible constructions that also places the emphasis on the plural.

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  • Not all sentences starting with "Do the girl..." are ungrammatical: "Do the girl and the boy like to play soccer?" – herisson Apr 16 '19 at 18:21
  • @sumelic That's true, but that's using and as the conjunction, not or, which is the specific conjunction in the question. – Jason Bassford Apr 16 '19 at 22:34
  • Right. I agree with your answer as a whole, but I think the part where you argue "the following is ungrammatical: ✘ Do the girl . . . By that standard alone, your second sentence, despite being awkward, is the only one that's grammatical" is not a complete argument in support of your point. To complete the argument, it would be necessary to cite evidence showing that sentences with or work this way. (A number of references for that exist, so I don't think it's a big deal that you didn't cite one. Even if the argument in this answer is incomplete, the conclusion is correct.) – herisson Apr 16 '19 at 22:39

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