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Since I am not a native speaker, I would like to consult with you. Which version would be the correct one? (I am translating a text in informal style)

  1. There were neither hair dryer, shower gel, nor shampoo in the room.
  2. There was neither hair dryer, shower gel, nor shampoo in the room.
  3. There were neither hair dryer, nor shower gel, nor shampoo in the room.
  4. There was neither hair dryer, nor shower gel, nor shampoo in the room.
  5. There weren't any hair dryer, shower gel and shampoo in the room.
  6. There wasn't any hair dryer, shower gel and shampoo in the room.

Maybe there is another better informal way how to say that there were no hair dryer, shower gel and shampoo in the room?

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    I would say "there was no hair dryer, no shower gel and no shampoo in the room". Or, less specific, "there were few/no toiletries in the room".
    – Centaurus
    Sep 16, 2019 at 20:06
  • Thank you Centaurus! I really like your suggestion: there was no hair dryer, no shower gel and no shampoo in the room. It fits very well with the informal style, and I cannot omit any parts of the details.
    – Ronja
    Sep 16, 2019 at 20:30

2 Answers 2

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This is likely partly a matter of style rather than strict grammar.

In terms of the use of neither-nor, The Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.), 5.234, says the following:

The correlative conjunctions neither and nor negate alternatives simultaneously. Traditionally, only pairs are framed by neither–nor, but writers and speakers sometimes use a neither–nor–nor construction, as in the last example below.

      The dog and the cat are not friendly.
      Neither pet is friendly.
      Neither the dog nor the cat is friendly.

      The radiator does not leak, and the water pump also does not leak.
      Neither the radiator nor the water pump leaks.

      Neither John nor Sally nor Brenda can attend the meeting.

In that last example, some writers include only the last nor. But again, a simple neither–nor construction isn’t recommended with three or more elements, the sequence neither–nor–nor being preferable.


Perhaps the most famous of multiple list items using a neither-nor construction is the one mistakenly thought to be the official motto of the US Post Office:

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Note that when you use neither-nor (or either-or) the verb used follows the singularity or plurality of the individual list items.

Based on this guidance, and with the three list items, the sentence in the question could be phrased in the following ways:

Neither hair dryer nor shower gel nor shampoo was in the room.
There was neither hair dryer nor shower gel nor shampoo in the room.

As a matter of style, you could also use commas to separate the list items.


Other variations of the sentence that don't use neither-nor include the following:

There wasn't a hair dryer, shower gel, or shampoo in the room.
There was no hair dryer, shower gel, or shampoo in the room.
There wasn't a hair dryer or any shower gel or shampoo in the room.


You could also reverse the sentence, which might sound more natural than any of the other forms:

The room contained no hair dryer, shower gel, or shampoo.
The room didn't contain a hair dryer, shower gel, or shampoo.


There is no single correct version. It's a matter of style and what you think sounds best.

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  • Neither men nor women are going to be happy if you use a singular verb there. :)
    – tchrist
    Sep 17, 2019 at 6:28
  • Thank you so much Jason! Wonderful explanation! This is clear to me now. Thank you once again!
    – Ronja
    Sep 17, 2019 at 10:42
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the correct form of your sentence is:

there weren't any hairdryers, shower gels and shampoos in the room.

none of your sentences is correct and here's why:

whenever any is accompanied by conjunctions the verb is plural. both shower gel and shampoo have countable and non-countable forms, but in this context, countable forms make more sense because you're probably mentioning shampoo bottles and shower gel products

your sentence is about three items, shower gel, hairdryer, and shampoo. you can not use "neither" for more than two items. so the correct form of usage of "neither" in this case is:

there was neither hairdryer nor shower gel in the room (you have to get rid of one item).

also "neither" is singular and should be accompanied by a singular verb, so "was" should be used in this case.

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  • Welcome, Arya. Would you use "and" or "or" in this context? Also, given the topic, answers are usually expected to have proper capitalization, etc. You will receive down/close votes otherwise.
    – jimm101
    Sep 16, 2019 at 19:52
  • Thank you Arya for a very detailed explanation! I have to stick with a singular use of the mentioned items and cannot omit any parts since I am translating a specific text. It is supposed to be one item of hair dryers, one bottle of shower gel and one bottle of shampoo in the room. In the neither/nor case, I read in the other posts here that it is possible to use several items with neither/nor. That is where I am a bit confused. But thank you in any way!
    – Ronja
    Sep 16, 2019 at 20:41

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