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Possible Duplicate:
Singular or plural following a list

James and Mark are going to help you.

Here, I use 'are' because the subject is plural.

James or Mark are going to help you.

James or Mark is going to help you.

Here, I’m not sure whether to use 'are' or 'is' because the subject isn't plural(?) It’s one or the other – so does that mean the subject is still plural, and I should use 'are', or is 'is' correct here?

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1 Answer 1

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Each of your sentences is a compound sentence; that is, each is composed of two sentences reduced to one:

James is going to help you and Mark is going to help you => James and Mark are going to help you.

The conjunction and makes the subject a plural subject: James and Mark, two guys, are going to help you.

(Either [Implied but optional]) James is going to help you or Mark is going to help you => James or Mark are going to help you.

The conjunction or makes the subject a singular subject: James or Mark, only one of the two guys, is going to help you. I don't know which, but both won't.

You can always avoid the problem by changing the verb from is going to to will:

James and Mark will help you.
(Either [Implied but optional]) James or Mark will help you.

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    'The conjunction or makes the subject a singular subject' so it should be 'James or Mark ''is'' going to help you', right?
    – Erdem
    Feb 27, 2017 at 10:16
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    I got confused by the answer as well, which one is it after all? Sep 1, 2020 at 16:25
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    This answer is confusing
    – sintetico
    Jun 13, 2021 at 6:34
  • "(James or Mark) is going to help you." ⇒ "James is going to help you or Mark is going to help you." But it does not sound very idiomatic. Oct 27, 2023 at 21:22

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