Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Today's English lesson

From the American Heritage Book of English Usage:

Neither Snow
Nor Heat
Gloom Of Night
Stays These
Couriers From The
Swift Completion Of
Their Appointed Rounds

The rules for using nor are neither simple nor easy to spell out. When using neither in a balanced construction that negates two parts of a sentence, you must use nor, not or, in the second part. Thus you must say
He is neither able nor (not or) willing to go.
Similarly, you must use nor (not or) when negating the second of two negative independent clauses:
He cannot find anyone now, nor does he expect to find anyone in the future.
Jane will never compromise with Bill, nor will Bill compromise with Jane.
Note that in these constructions nor causes an inversion of the auxiliary verb and the subject (does he will Bill …). However, when a verb is negated by not or never, and is followed by a negative verb phrase (but not an entire clause), you can use either or or nor:
He will not permit the change or (or nor) even consider it.
In noun phrases of the type no this or that, or is actually more common than nor:
He has no experience or interest (less frequently nor interest) in chemistry.
Or is also more common than nor when such a noun phrase, adjective phrase, or adverb phrase is introduced by not:
He is not a philosopher or a statesman.
They were not rich or happy.

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