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I've been stuck on this for quite some time and my mind's foggy because of the overthinking.

I would like to check which of these are correct:

  1. If you or your mother need help...
  2. If you or your mother needs help...
  3. If you or your partner is experiencing...
  4. If you or your partner are experiencing...

#1 and #3 sound the most "natural" to me. But according to grammar rules, when "or" is concerned, the verb in the sentence should be singular, as per the last noun. Taking this into consideration, #1 would technically be wrong.

I think the use of "you" is throwing me off. Things seem to be more straightforward when inanimate objects are concerned. For example:

  • If your laptop or computer shuts down without warning...
  • If your pillow or mattress is causing discomfort...
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  • If you look at the duplicates, you'll see that "the rule" says to pick the nearer one to agree with under disjunction, but you'll also see that there's little agreement across native speakers as to what really "sounds" best for all these cases. That's probably what you're perceiving here. In some cases, you should consider rewording in order to avoid writing something that others might object to, no matter how well you could justify your choice.
    – tchrist
    Jun 13 at 3:39