1. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Neither of them is or neither of them are?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Tenderiser, Sep 14, 2015.

    The sites I'm finding on Google say both are correct BUT I LIKE DEFINITIVE ANSWERS! Do any of the grammar buffs on here think there is a correct answer?

    The sentence is currently: "When Alex bats a cricket ball into Rachel's stomach, neither of them are expecting to fall in love."

    It's part of my query draft so, if it ends up in the final version, I want it to be perfect.
     
  2. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I think the sentence looks weird because you have an ephemeral tense. It could either be past tense or present because of the "when" at the beginning of the sentence. If you change it to past tense:
    all of the weirdness disappears.
     
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  3. Bookster
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    Bookster Banned

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    Is.
     
  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Interesting, thanks @Jack Asher. I know synopses should be written in the present tense but I'm not sure about queries. I think the samples I have read were also in present tense.

    @Bookster any reason?
     
  5. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry, Tenderiser, I can't pretend this is the DEFINITE answer you're looking for, but my instinct is 'are'.

    Reason, because there's two people. 'Are' indicates plural while 'is' would indicate singular... wouldn't it?

    As I say, I'm far from a grammar expert, so all that's probably total bollocks.
     
  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    When Alex bats a cricket ball into Rachel's stomach, neither of them expected to fall in love. ?
    Maybe or expects?
     
  7. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Neither" is singular. There are two ways to see why:

    1. Rephrase it slightly:

    "When Alex bats a cricket ball into Rachel's stomach, neither one is expecting to fall in love."

    2. Rephrase it completely:

    "When Alex bats a cricket ball into Rachel's stomach, Alex is not expecting to fall in love and Rachel is not expecting to fall in love."
     
  8. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    neither of them are expecting to fall in love. (you are grouping two people = plural)
    neither one of them is expecting to fall in love. (separating the two = singular)
    neither of them were expecting to fall in love.
    They weren't expecting to fall in love.
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    As stated already, neither is a singular indefinite pronoun. Whether you chose to rephrase or not to smooth it out a bit, it's singular. The of them is a prepositional phrase that is subordinate to neither and its plurality is of no consequence. It does not drive the logic of the verb agreement.

    All of these are singular:
    • each
    • anybody
    • somebody
    • nobody
    • everybody
    • one
    • anyone



      • everyone
      • someone
      • neither
      • either
      • nothing
      • anything
      • everything
      • something
     
  10. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    But "them" is not the subject. "neither" is the subject. "neither" is short for "neither one". In the phrase "neither one of them" (or "of them, neither one"), the subject is "one" and it is modified by "neither" and by "of them". To illustrate that point more clearly:

    "Of them, neither is expecting to fall in love."
    =
    "Of them, neither one is expecting to fall in love."
    =
    "Of them, not one is expecting to fall in love."

    "neither" = "neither one" = "not one"
    "neither of them" = "neither one of them" = "not one of them"
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2015
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  11. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Sticking with my choice.

    Mainly because it sounds right and the way things sound are more important to readers than the grammatical explanation of what is the subject and how it is modified.
     
  12. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sounds right to you, but not to me, and not to all of your readers.
     
  13. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I think expects will work, thank you :)

    These technical terms mean nothing to me. I need an idiot's guide. :)
     
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  14. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    A verb agrees with its subject in number.
    Verbs agree with their subjects in number.
    Verbs agrees with their subjects in number.

    That third sentence is invalid. Why? Because the verb disagrees with its subject in number: "verbs" (the subject) is plural but "agrees" (the verb) is singular.

    You asked whether to use the singular verb "is" or the plural verb "are". To answer that question, we make the verb agree with its subject in number. The subject is "neither". If "neither" is singular, then use the singular verb "is". If "neither" is plural, then use the plural verb "are".

    So is "neither" singular or plural? To answer that question, we look at what type of word it is. It is a pronoun, but it does not refer to a definite thing or person -- it could refer to one thing or person or another thing or person. We call that an indefinite pronoun. "Neither of them is expecting to fall in love" is another way of saying: "_____ is not expecting to fall in love. That statement is true if you fill in the blank with "Alex" or if you fill in the blank with "Rachel"." Both the nouns that "neither" could stand in for are singular. Therefore, "neither" is singular.

    But why does "neither of them are" sound right even though it is not? That is because "them" is plural, and since "them" comes right before the verb, it kinda sorta looks like "them" is the subject of "are". The truth is that "neither" is the subject; "of them" is merely a phrase that modifies "neither" by clarifying what "neither" could refer to. This phrase consists of a preposition ("of") followed by a noun or pronoun ("them"). We call that a prepositional phrase. (There is no such thing as a "prepositional clause".)
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2015
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  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This is true. Sorry about that. Got heavy handed with the use of the word clause. ;)
     
  16. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    @daemon is like some fucking 10th dan black belt in something I don't even know the name of. I love reading those posts. :agreed:
     
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  17. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Great explanation, thank you @daemon. And everyone else who answered.

    But I think I'm going to cheat and go with @peachalulu's suggestion, just to make sure it doesn't read oddly. :D
     
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  18. Steve Ceaton
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    Steve Ceaton New Member

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    I would go with 'are' as stated because it is plural. Neither of 'them' are. Neither 'one' is. If it sounds wrong it usually is. I tend to go with my gut. But my gut has been known to let me down a few times.
     
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  19. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I did write 'are' initially but it seemed wrong when I looked at it. I couldn't put it into words like some of the posters above, but I felt it was referring to them as individual entities and so maybe it should be 'is'. Now, neither of them sound quite right.

    I do wish I'd had a better grounding in grammar. I didn't learn how to use commas properly until a few years ago, after I'd spent so long using them how I was taught (to indicate a pause) that I still get it wrong.
     
  20. Acidveins
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    Acidveins Member

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    Doesn't this raise an interesting point?

    Whether its plural or singular, you will confuse a part of your audience.
    I have a decent grasp on the language, but using the correct singular verb here would make me look twice at the sentence.
    Readers that are more aware of the intricacies would pause as they recognize it as incorrect.
    Either way, you would pull a portion of readers out of the story and force them to think about the grammar. That is the last thing we writers want.

    So which is better?
    Secret option three; avoiding the situation. Changing the verb to "expects" is a perfect solution.

    Thanks for the grammar lesson, though.
    Thanks to @peachalulu for a great workaround.
     
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  21. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    Grammar be crazy.
     
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  22. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'd go with @peachalulu 's suggestion and just rephrase it.

    Neither -> singular. Sounds weird to native speakers, I'm sure, but if you wanted to use that after all, I'd go with what's grammatically sound, and unfortunately it is, afaik. Your editor/agent should know their grammar too, so if I were you, I'd stick to the rules in your pitch.
     
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  23. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I've gone with @peachalulu's excellent suggestion. I'm all for a Get Me Off the Hook solution if one is available :D
     
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  24. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Usually a good idea. If something doesn't sound right, change it. Otherwise it'll gnaw at you every time you read it. The grammatically correct answer is "is," but I agree that rephrasing it to something that sounds less "grammar lab-y" is likely for the best. The reader probably doesn't want to feel like she's back in 7th grade English class.
     
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  25. Masterspeler
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    Masterspeler Active Member

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    I'm chiming in too. It is most definitely singular.
    As Wreybies said, the following each, anybody, somebody, nobody, everybody, one, anyone, everyone, someone, neither, either, nothing, anything, everything, something are all singular. (another logical contradiction. All of them are singular, since all means many, ie plural.

    Interestingly, "All" does not follow the above rule and is plural.

    Other examples that can be singulars (that are used incorrectly too often) are:

    The majority is here( The majority of club members are here)
    The entirety is sold (The entirety of cars are sold)
    A large portion is eaten (A large portion of the seal is eaten--singular. A large portion of crops are tainted)

    The sum is divergent (The sum of fractions is divergent) is again strictly singular.

    It seems that "all" as well as the examples above can go both ways (I can't help but think of Beavis and Butthead commenting and snorting) depending if the object of each quantifier is present. English is a tough language. To be honest, I got some of these wrong before I posted and had to double check them. It was good exercise for me to post, so I hope it helps others too.

    AB
     

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