More variation than expected

I suppose I should never say that some position is “utterly uncontroversial” and that I’m unaware of variation on the point in question. But I did say this, on Language Log recently, about this handbook advice on agreement with disjunctive subjects:

When all parts of a subject joined by or or nor are singular, the verb is singular; when all parts are plural, the verb is plural

Now Ran Ari-Gur writes to tell me:

There is some variation on this; I know at least one speaker who seems to prefer the plural for all conjoined subjects, even if they’re conjoined with a logical disjunction. (This came up during proofreading, so it wasn’t just a typo or speech production error or the like.) 

And Google produces a (very) few relevant examples, for instance:

A teacher who poses nude has the reasonable expectation to believe that either he or she are not abiding by a school’s code of conduct. (link)

There is no question that either he or she are qualified to lead. (link)

Of course, examples with singular agreement hugely outnumber examples with plural agreement, but there are some plurals. And not just in coordination:

Is schizophrenia genetic? Is bipolar disorder genetic? If either of them are, are there tests that can show if it was passed to a child or not? (link)

Personally, I don’t think either of them are responsible enough to work as doctors. (link)

So there might be something worth looking at here.

One Response to “More variation than expected”

  1. sg or sg = pl « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] set of cases came up in my postings “More variation than expected” (here) and “He or she are” (here): subjects of the form (either) he or she can work, for some […]

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