Friday, March 23, 2007

Today's English lesson

From the American Heritage Book of English Usage:

In the Neither-world

neither or none. According to the traditional rule, neither is used only to mean “not one or the other of two.” To refer to “none of several,” none is preferred:
None (not neither) of the three opposition candidates would make a better president than the incumbent.

singular or plural. The traditional rule also holds that neither is grammatically singular:
Neither candidate is having an easy time with the press.
However, it is often used with a plural verb, especially when followed by of and a plural:
Neither of the candidates are really expressing their own views.
(note: I do not agree that this is an acceptable usage... I believe that the sentence should read "Neither of the candidates is expressing his own views." Unfortunately, English doesn't seem to have a good singular asexual pronoun suitable for human appellation, hence the dubious acceptability of the pluralization of "neither," particularly in cases where the two candidates are of differing genders.)

neither … (n)or. As a conjunction neither is properly followed by nor, not or, in formal style:
Neither prayers nor curses (not or curses) did any good.

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