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“Either-Or” and “Neither-Nor” on GMAT


Understand the usage of either and or as well as neither and nor from the perspective of GMAT sentence correction questions.


“Either-Or” and “Neither-Nor” on GMAT

"Either-Or" and "Neither-Nor"


Subject verb agreement is one of the most basic and important concepts that you must master, to tackle GMAT sentence correction and there are certain phrases that require special attention to determine their form. This short article will discuss how to properly determine whether two such phrases, “either-or” and “neither-nor” are plural or singular, on the GMAT.

Either-Or and Neither-Nor


When used in a sentence, “either-or” and “neither-nor” take the form of the subject of the sentence; if there are multiple subjects, they take the form of the subject nearest to them. Let us illustrate this concept, through the following examples:

Example 1 – Neither Jack, nor his friends are going to the party.
In this sentence, the closest subject to “neither-nor” is the plural noun “friends”; thus, it takes on the plural form and, must be referred to with the plural verb “are” because the verb refers to the closest subject after “neither-nor”.

Example 2 – Neither his friends, nor Jack is going to the party.
To better illustrate the concept, we have flipped Example 1 around to form example two. In this sentence, the singular noun “Jack” is closest to “neither-nor”; thus, it takes on the singular form and must be referred to with the plural verb “is”. Even though there are multiple subjects taking an action in this sentence (not going to the party), the verb “is” is only referring to the singular noun “Jack”. The plural noun “friends” is linked to “Jack”, through “neither-nor”.

The same concept applies to the term “either-or”, as well, with no significant changes.

While we are on the subject of “either-or” and “neither-nor”, it may be prudent to discuss another important GMAT topic. Please note that, in a sentence, the word “nor” can never be used without the word “neither”. The word “neither” can be used alone in a sentence but the word “nor” cannot.

Understanding this concept will help you solve the GMAT sentence correction questions, more efficiently; by checking the verb forms of verbs used in sentences that contain “either-or” and “neither-nor”, against the form of the noun that is closest to it, you will be able to easily identify incorrect answer choices.

This article has deliberately been kept brief; for a more elaborate explanation, please refer to Experts' Global's Stage One Sentence Correction videos.

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