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Which is more correct:

This rule specifies that an object should be either visible or invisible, but not partially visible.

Or

This rule specifies that an object should either be visible or invisible, but not partially visible.

Is there any rule for that?

Also, should the be be repeated after the or in the second statement?

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2 Answers 2

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It's fine either way. I parse your first example as:

...should be [either [visible] or [invisible]]...

That is, what an object should be is either "visible" or "invisible"; and the second example as:

...should [either [be visible] or [be invisible]]...

Meaning that what an object should do is either "be visible" or "be invisible".

In this syntax, the repeated verb (here be) can be omitted because it's clear from context, however if you have multiple items with mixed verbs, then the verb is required for every item.

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  • This really just restates my answer, but alright..!
    – Noldorin
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 15:36
  • @Noldorin: Sort of, but I wanted to try to make the parallel structure more clear.
    – Jon Purdy
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 23:00
  • Ok, fair enough. I think the truth is even simpler than what you show, but if this helps anyone, then it's all useful. :) (Also, "parallel"? Sorry, I'm only familiar with the mathematical/geometrical definition of that term.)
    – Noldorin
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 23:14
  • @Noldorin: Yeah, whatever works. And I meant "parallel" in the sense of "analogous", that is, the two sides must match one another.
    – Jon Purdy
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 23:22
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I would not consider either sentence unusual in form.

The verb phrase should be can be quite acceptably split. (Unlike the more controversial issue of infinitives.) Hence, both forms are grammatically acceptable.

To me, the former is slightly more natural (when speaking), while the latter is essential when you want to use two different verbs in your "either ... or ..." phrase.

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