Submitted by Dyske on December 20, 2002

Neither is or neither are

“For this recepie, vodka or rum can be used, though neither is ideal.”

Should it be “neither are”?

If I were to cast it, “both are not ideal”, it is “are”. So, it seems that “neither” should also get “are”.

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It's the 'and' vs. 'or' implication.

Neither is saying that "not vodka" or "not rum" in the singular, so neither, by itself, is correct.

Also, were you to use the combination of the two in your discussion of ideal, the combination would be a singular in the context, so 'neither is' would still apply.

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Yes, you would use is unless they were grouped together to create a plural. dariensan said it right. If it was "vodka and rum can be used", then the correct sentence would have read "For this recipe, both vodka and rum can be used, though neither are ideal." Note that the "both" is not required, but I added it out of personal preference as I find that it sounds better in such a context. However, if the sentence were to use "none of them" instead of "neither", it would not matter if "and" or "or" were used. For example, "For this recipe, vodka or rum can be used, though none of them are ideal." This is because the word "them" is plural. However, I would doubt you would find that on a well written recipe or any professionally made document, because while it is not necessarily incorrect grammar, it sounds wordy and strange. Neither is a much better word choice of course.

Also, if the recipe items themselves were plural, you would use "are" after neither regardless of "and" or "or". Since I cannot think of the plural for vodka or rum, let's say something like "For this recipe, apples or oranges can be used, though neither are ideal." Notice the use of "or" but since the fruits themselves are plural, "are" would still be required. To say "neither is" would be incorrect, unless the sentence read "For this recipe, an apple or an orange can be used, though neither is ideal."

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So what do you do when one is plural and the other is not?

e.g., "Two small apples or one large apple can be used, though neither is/are ideal"

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I have to respectfully disagree with a couple of you. As used in the sample sentence, "neither" unquestionably takes the singular. Think of it as being short for "neither one". "Neither one is ideal" is the only correct form.

Believe it or not, this is actually a rule, and therefore to be cherished for its rarity.

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Whoops, forgot. Jun-Dai Bates-Kobash asked what you do when one element is plural and the other is not: "Two small apples or one large apple can be used, though neither is/are ideal"

The answer is that "neither [one]" still takes a singular verb.

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"Neither" means that given two choices, both are to be individually rejected. Therefore a singular verb is required. If you want to refer to the duo and reject them, you should say something like "both are not".

Pretty much "what Teresa said"

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My high school english teacher taught us a little cheer: "each, either, neither, the bodies and the ones!" (it's important to say it like a cheer). :) By "the bodies," he meant somebody, anybody, etc and by "the ones" he meant anyone, someone, noone, etc. These are all words which precede singular verb conjugations. In the sentence "neither of the boys IS going to the game," one is implied after neither and so the verb is singular.

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"Neither" can be singular or plural, depending on what it refers to. ("Neither the teachers nor the administration are being reasonable in these negotiations"; "neither the teacher nor the dean is being reasonable in these negotiations.") "Vodka" and "rum" are singular; hence the choice is one singular thing or another; hence the "is." -- BTW, often, when in doubt, one can take the coward's way out and say "neither would be ideal." No agreement to deal with.

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I think the issue is that your casting is not right. In the case mentioned, it's not that "both are not ideal", but rather "neither one is ideal."

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If neither is ideal, why would either of them be mentioned in the recipe? To illustrate my point: "For coconut cream pie, ground beef or ceramic tiles can be used, though neither is ideal."

While grammar is important, one should place a higher importance on the overall meaningfulness of the sentence to begin with.

In this case, the author should have replaced this clumsy sentence with:

"Ideally this recipe calls for GIN, however, you may substitute with rum or vodka."

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Neither is always singular.

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Neither in this use refers to the implied word "choice" therefore is singular.

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The confusion here arises due to that fact that the word 'neither' in this sentence appears to refer to both vodka and rum together as a plural entity - which would seem to require a plural form of the verb, leaving us with an apparent subject-verb disagreement.

'Neither' is a negative form of 'either' and thus should have a corresponding negative sentence, clause or word to warrant its usage.
Strictly speaking the sentence should read:
"...neither one nor the other is ideal"
However, an acceptable contraction would be to omit the "...nor the other..." since, from the foregoing clause it is clear it is referring to either vodka or rum (but not both at once).
This would leave us with:
"...neither ONE is ideal"

The singular form of the verb is used as it can be assumed that only one of the two possible substitute ingredients would be used.

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Traditionallly, 'neither' is followed by a singular, and in careful English it still is. But in spoken English, 'neither' can be used with a plural if you are considering both at the same time, as it were - it no longer jars when someone says 'neither of these are what I want.' This may change in the future, of course, but certainly keep the singular for formal writing.

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No one has gotten the general rule right yet. "Either" and "neither" take a singular verb in some cases and a plural verb in others, as follows:

1. We start with the general rule for compound subjects separated by "or":
If both subjects are singular, use the singular verb:
Harry Harmer or Jane Jones is coming to visit tomorrow.

If both subjects are plural, use the plural verb:
The Harmers or the Joneses are coming to visit tomorrow.

If one subject is singular and one is plural, the verb form agrees with the subject closest to the verb:
The Harmers or Jane Jones is coming to visit tomorrow **NOTE: CORRECT, BUT AWKWARD AND DISFAVORED**
Jane Jones or the Harmers are coming to visit tomorrow **PREFERRED**

2. It's the same if we add "Either" to the front of the sentence:
EIther Harry Harmer or Jane Jones is coming to visit tomorrow.
Either the Harmers or the Joneses are coming to visit tomorrow.
EIther the Harmers or Jane Jones is coming to visit tomorrow. **CORRECT BUT AWKWARD**
EIther Jane Jones or the Harmers are coming to visit tomorrow. **PREFERRED**

3. FInally, it's the same if we substitute "neither" and "nor" for "either" and "or":
Neither Harry Harmer nor Jane Jones is coming to visit tomorrow.
Neither the Harmers nor the Joneses are coming to visit tomorrow.
NeIther the Harmers nor Jane Jones is coming to visit tomorrow. **CORRECT BUT AWKWARD**
Neither Jane Jones nor the Harmers are coming to visit tomorrow. **PREFERRED**

Yes, in your example, you use the singular, because what you really means is "neither vodka nor rum is ideal." But if you replace vodka and rum with "doughnuts" and "cookies," then you would use "are."

Saying "both are not ideal" would be a bad mistake, because it is ambiguous. Do you mean "neither vodka nor rum is ideal"? Then say "neither one is ideal." Or do you mean "Using both vodka and rum together is not ideal"? In that case, say "using both together is not ideal."

As you can tell, I'm a lawyer. Who else would actually LIKE this stuff?

Cheers,
Mike

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Way back in the mists of time - 2,February 2003 at 8:27 to be precise - bluepxl said: "..... though none of them are ideal..." Of course this SHOULD have been ".....though none of them is ideal...".

"None" is a negation of "one" and so it is, by definitiuon, singular. It therefore requires singular verb.

Ironic, isn't it, that bluepxl makes such a mistake in a debate about whether "neither" should take a singuler or a plural". :)

Sam

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Referring back to Mike on Nov 11. I found this blog because I was writing an email to a friend, who had invited my wife and me to a cards evening. I wanted to say that "neither of us are cardplayers", but I know that in that case, I should use "is". But I also can't say "neither of us is cardplayers". So perhaps I should say "neither of us is a cardplayer" which sounds ridiculous to me. Is the conclusion that, in situations like this, one should reconstruct the sentence entirely. So I should really say something like "we aren't cardplayers". Fine when you're writing, but how do you avoid getting into a tangle when talking!!

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If addressing two people, it would seem to be proper to indicate "neither of you ARE interested in doing such and so, etc." since the singular second person form of the verb is "are." The phrase "neither of you IS" sounds wrong.

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I disagree with ngmacmillan's take based on reasoning stated by Mike and others.

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I am impressed. Some have said, "English is the hardest language to learn." Who would have known? In closing. "Y'all have a good un."

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www.thebestenglishsoftware.com

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