Most questions in the Sentence Error Identification part of the Civil Service Exam will include those which make use of correlative conjunctions “Neither – Nor” and “Either – Or”.
RULE: In sentences with ‘Neither-Nor’ or ‘Either-Or’, or just ‘Or’ or ‘Nor’, remember that if both the subjects are singular, the verb must be singular. If both are plural, then the verb is plural.
- Neither Elisha nor Joanne likes pancakes. (Subjects: “Elisha” or “Joanne”, both are singular)
- Either Luke’s sisters or his brothers were to blame for the ruined decorations. (Subjects: “Luke’s sisters” or “Luke’s brothers”, both are plural)
However, if one is singular and the other is plural, we follow the proximity rule.
PROXIMITY RULE: There is also a proximity rule which states that the verb must follow the form of the subject that is NEAREST to it. That being said, both of the following sentences are considered correct.
- Neither Luke nor his sisters are attending the program. (In this sentence, the plural subject “sisters” is near the verb. Thus, “are attending” is correct)
- Neither his sisters nor Luke himself is going to the party. (In this sentence, the singular subject “Luke himself” is near the verb. Thus, “is going” is correct)