myQBook English Grammar Concepts

Common Mistakes: Are "Neither", "Nor" and Other Correlative Conjunctions Singular or Plural? (pronoun-antecedent agreement)

When a pronoun’s antecedent is part of a correlative conjunction pair, there is sometimes confusion on whether to make the pronoun singular or plural.

The general rule for this situation is the same as the rule in the subject verb agreement situation: only the noun closest to the pronoun counts. If the noun closest to the pronoun is singular, use the singular pronoun. If it is plural, use the plural pronoun. For example, consider the following sentence:

Not only the gorilla but also the lions were given their food early.

In this example, the first noun, “gorilla”, is singular, but the second noun, “lions” is plural. Since the noun closest to the pronoun (lions) is plural, the pronoun, “their”, is plural (notice that the verb "were" is also plural because the noun closest to it is plural). If the nouns, “gorilla” and “lions”, switched places, the pronoun would be singular because the noun closest to it would be singular.

Not only the lions but also the gorilla was given its food early.


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Common Mistakes: Neither, Nor and other correlative conjunctions: Singular or Plural? (subject-verb agreement)

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