Either you or I is/are/am...

Discussion in 'English Only' started by audiolaik, May 31, 2008.

  1. audiolaik

    audiolaik Senior Member


    Neither of the girls seems at all interested in what either my wife or I is doing.

    As far as I remember, it would be possible to say ...my wife or I are doing.

    What about ...my wife or I am doing?

    I do know it sounds really odd, but I would like to know your opinion, dear native speakers.:D

    Thank you!
  2. El escoces Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English - UK
    ...my wife or I is doing :tick:

    ...my wife or I are doing :cross: (strictly speaking)

    ...my wife and I are doing :tick:

    ...my wife or I am doing :cross:

    "My wife or I" equals "either one of us", so "is doing"; "my wife and I" equals us, we, so "are doing". First persona singular is not possible, except with "what I am doing".
  3. audiolaik

    audiolaik Senior Member


    Now it is clear as a bell, El escoces!

    Thank you!
  4. moundflower Member

    us english
    Either you or I is/are/am...

    I'm of the opinion that the verb should agree with "Either," which would make "is" the right choice.

    any thoughts.

    << Merged with previous thread.
    Please read from the top. >>
    Last edited by a moderator: May 21, 2012
  5. Elwintee Senior Member

    London England
    England English
    Yes, you are right. Either [one or the other] is ...
  6. dn88 Senior Member

    Technically speaking, the verb should agree with the closer subject:

    Either you or I am...
  7. Elwintee Senior Member

    London England
    England English
    No, dn88, that is plain wrong. "Either" makes the difference. Either this or that is ...
  8. Pertinax

    Pertinax Senior Member

    Queensland, Aust
    I would say it as dn88 suggests: Either you or I am wrong.
    Using "is" grates on my ear, though so does "am" to a lesser degree.
    I prefer: Either you are wrong, or I am.
  9. cubaMania Senior Member

    That's right, "Either you or I am (wrong/tall/going to town/in trouble...)" is grammatically correct.
    Nevertheless, I would not say it. It sounds too strange, so I would avoid the problem by using two verbs as Pertinax suggests.
    I also agree with Pertinax that the grammatically incorrect "Either you or I is (wrong/tall/going to town/in trouble...)" sounds even worse.

    Elwintee, I think you are attempting to apply a rule for "either" when it is used as an indefinite pronoun, but here it is not an indefinite pronoun; it is a determiner. The subject is the compound "you or I" and the applicable rule is the proximity rule for compound subjects of the form 'X or Y'.
    Last edited: May 20, 2012
  10. dn88 Senior Member

    This is more complicated than I thought. I have yet to find a conclusive answer. Even grammar books and websites seem to disagree on this.
    I'm not sure what kind of difference it would make. The word "either" is clearly a conjunction in this case, so not a pronoun and therefore not the subject of the sentence. Are you implying that we should happily say "you or I am" but not "either you or I am"?

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