Neither…nor VS Neither of…

Not just the students, the adults are very confused by these as well simply because they require some memory work. Also, the explanations online are not always consistent because the English language is a discourse that varies from context to context. However, for the sake of the PSLE standard in Singapore, the basic rule that students need to understand is this:

When using “Neither…nor” or “Either…or”, the form of the verb used in the sentence must follow the noun closest to it.

e.g.

Mother realised that neither the lamps nor the dining table was where ____________ should be.
(a) it (b) its
(c) they (d) their (                 )

(Source: P6 Past-Year Exam Papers)

From the question above, you would have noticed the verb “was” after “the dining table” is singular, because the rule is to follow the noun closest to it, which in this case is “the dining table”. Therefore, the pronoun that follows “was” has to be singular as well, answer (a).

Now try this:

__________ either my brothers or my father responsible for the robbery?
(a) is (b) are
(c) was (d) were (                 )

“my brothers” is the noun closest to the verb required in front. “my brothers” is plural. So the answer is either (b) are, or (d) were. Given that it is a question, we usually assume it’s a present tense because you are asking about it now. Therefore, the answer is (b) are.

When using “Neither of” or “Either of”, the form of the verb used in the sentence should be singular.

e.g.

We will be greatly surprised if neither of the boys ____________ how old Grandpa is.
(a) remember (b) remembers
(c) are remembering (d) have remembered (                 )

(Source: P6 Past-Year Exam Papers)

In this case, we are really referring to none of the boys being able to remember how old Grandpa is, thus, the answer should be (b) remembers, since “none” is singular.

Try this:

Neither of the girls ________ attending the upcoming school carnival.
(a) is (b) are
(c) was (d) were (                 )

From above, none of the girls is going to attend the upcoming carnival, thus it should be singular present continuous tense. Answer (a) is.

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