singular/plural verbs in paired (correlative) conjunctions: both ... and ... verb<s>

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AntiScam

Senior Member
Arabic
Hello,

One singular and one plural subject
Sometimes, we join a singular subject to a plural subject. In this case, the majority of style guides state that the verb should agree with the noun that is closest to it. For example:
  • “Every day both the cat and the dogs wake me up.” (Wake is plural because the dogs is plural.)
Source: The Free Dictionary. The Farlex Grammar Book > English Grammar > Parts of Speech > Conjunctions > Correlative Conjunctions

According to the note above, the majority of style guides would agree on the grammar of this example:
  • “Every day both the dogs and the cat wakes me up.” (Wakes is singular because the cat is singular.)

Is this true? I feel the following sentence is natural and so would be more common:

  • “Every day both the dogs and the cat wake me up.” (Wake is plural because the subject is a complete subject and so is plural and it is basic, that is there are no long modifiers before the last single subject, cat. Otherwise the verb may need to follow the subject)
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I agree with you. The correlative conjunction1: "Both X and Ys" and "Both Ys and X" result in a plural subject and thus a plural verb.

    Both he and I are going to the party./ Both they and I are going to the party. / Both they and he are going to the party.



    1That I know as a "coordinating conjunction" as opposed to a "subordinating conjunction".)
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The proximity rule, as stated, is simply wrong. It might apply if the two subjects are joined by or.
    In the dogs and the cat and the cat and the dogs a plural verb is needed.
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    The example you quote ("both the cat and the dogs wake me"), because the subject is "both," which is plural, and even without "both," and even if there were just one cat and one dog, we would still use "wake."

    [Cross-posted with e2efour]
     

    AntiScam

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    I agree with you. The correlative conjunction1: "Both X and Ys" and "Both Ys and X" result in a plural subject and thus a plural verb.

    Both he and I are going to the party./ Both they and I are going to the party. / Both they and he are going to the party.


    1That I know as a "coordinating conjunction" as opposed to a "subordinating conjunction".)
    That is one good example.
    Then you would agree with me except on the bit about long modifiers. According to the rule you have mentioned above, even with long modifiers of the last subject, the verb would always be plural in the case of the conjunction and.

    The proximity rule, as stated, is simply wrong. It might apply if the two subjects are joined by or.
    In the dogs and the cat and the cat and the dogs a plural verb is needed.

    Thank you all for your help.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    According to the rule you have mentioned above, even with long modifiers of the last subject, the verb would always be plural in the case of the conjunction and.
    Yes.

    [Both] the additions to the eastern aisle of St Peter's Cathedral, which were improvements that had been deemed too expensive by both the bishop and the dean, and the purchase of a newly discovered painting by the 19th century local artist William McBride, who was renowned for his romantic interpretation of landscapes and still-life, were made possible by a generous donation."
     
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