Both / neither / either + verb agreement
Both … and
Subjects connected by ‘both … and’ take the plural conjugation.
Both Alice and her children like to travel on the weekends.
Both Jim and Peter are attending the conference in New York this weekend.
Either … or
‘Either … or’ is used in sentences in a positive sense meaning “one or the other, this or that, he or she, etc.” Verb conjugation depends on the subject (singular or plural) closest to the conjugated verb. If one subject is singular and the other subject is plural, put the plural subject last and the singular subject first. Going by the rule above, your verb will agree with the plural subject.
Either Jane or Matt is going to visit next weekend. (second subject singular)
Either Peter or the girls need to attend the course. (second subject plural)
Neither … nor
‘Neither … nor’ is used in sentences in a negative sense meaning “not this one nor the other, not this nor that, not he nor she, etc.”. Verb conjugation depends on the subject (singular or plural) closest to the conjugated verb. If one subject is singular and the other subject is plural, put the plural subject last and the singular subject first. Going by the rule above, your verb will agree with the plural subject.
Neither Frank nor Lilly lives in Eugene. (second subject singular)
Neither Alex nor my other friends worry about money. (second subject plural)
Try this exercise to test your understanding. Underline the correct verb form that agrees with the subject.
1. Both Tom and Peter (live / lives) in a suburb of Chicago.
2. Either he or they (is / are) going to take care of the problem.
3. Neither my aunt nor my grandmother (want / wants) to come to my celebration.
4. Both my father and my brother (intend / intends) to finish the project.
5. Neither sally not the children (believes / believe) in the tooth fairy.
6. Either Jack or I (has / have) been chosen to represent the team.
7. Both the students and the teacher (believes / believe) in evolution.
8. Either the uncle or the aunt (send / sends) the boy a birthday card every year.
9. Neither Jennifer nor Katherine (were / was) ale to attend the party last week.
10. Either the participants or the sponsors (are / is) going to make a donation.
Answer’s from Last Week’s Tidbit
1. The last bus leaves at 10:30a.m. Be sure not to _miss_ it!
2. I didn’t ask the girl at the bar for her phone number last night. I really __wasted__ that opportunity.
3. People tend to __waste_____ a lot of time on the Internet when they could be doing other things.
4. People who are depressed sometimes _lose_ the will to try new things.
5. Erika _missed_ the doctor’s appointment because there was an accident.
6. I _waste a lot of time in the department store returning some shoes I bought because I __lost__ my receipt.