Verbs after "and/or"

sleepy sheep

Member
Japanese - Japan
Hello,

The president and/or the vice president makes the decision.

The proofreading function of my Word says "makes" should be "make".
But I think it should be "makes" because the verb must agree with "the vice president". (In this case, the president and the vice president are different people.)
Am I wrong?
I would appreciate replies from native speakers.
 
  • MichaelW

    Senior Member
    English (British)
    Either could apply because it could be one person (makes) or two (make). The "and/or" formula gets a lot of criticism.

    I would go with "makes" because the two are being named separately, or say "will make" so that the confusion does not arise (he will make / they will make).
     

    Shivanii

    New Member
    India-Hindi & English
    The president and the vice president make the decision.
    The president or the vice president makes the decision.
     

    sleepy sheep

    Member
    Japanese - Japan
    Thank you, MihcaelW & pickarooney. Avoidance strategies are always useful, but I wanted to know if there is one and only rule about this. I was expecting some grammatical explanation like "the verb must agree with the closer subject after or".
    But now that a native speaker has told me that either could apply, should I think there is no rule like that?

    (I understand why the "and/or" formula gets a lot of criticism. I think "or" is enough. This is about a case where I have to use it for some reasons.)

    Shivanii, I'm completely OK about "and" and "or" when they are used alone. I asked about "and/or". Thank you anyway.
     

    MichaelW

    Senior Member
    English (British)
    the verb must agree with the closer subject after or
    I don't think there is a rule (and/or is a recent arrival in the language) but your idea is a good one where two singular nouns are linked with and/or.

    This would be a variation on the proximity rule,
    [...] there is notable leniency on whether to use a plural or singular verb when one of the elements is plural. Under 'the proximity rule', the verb is governed by the element nearest to it.
    but for me the 'standard convention' discussed on the webpage

    When using 'or', if both elements are singular, then the verb is singular too. However, if one of the elements is plural, then use a plural verb.
    trumps the proximity rule, for instance...

    The judges and/or the President make the decision - I would use "make" here because one of the elements is plural.
     
    Last edited:

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    In writing you could even use 'make/s'.

    If you're forced to choose (as you are in speech), 'and/or' is a kind of "or", not a kind of "and": it's "or" with the inclusive option spelt out. So singular agreement is more coherent: either the president makes the decision, or the vice-president does, or possibly they both do.
     
    I wanted to know if there is one and only rule about this.
    As English entirely lacks any sort of official "rule-making" body, there is never "one and only one rule" about ANYTHING in English.

    My own individual advice to you, though, would be never to use "and/or". In the vast majority of cases, people who use "and/or" simply mean or.
     

    MichaelW

    Senior Member
    English (British)
    it's "or" with the inclusive option spelt out. So...
    An elegant explanation.

    But I would understand and/or to be a Boolean 'inclusive or' so I would not say that the inclusive part is an option with a "possibly" attached: there are three equally valid possibilities, which is maybe another reason to avoid "and/or" :)
     

    sleepy sheep

    Member
    Japanese - Japan
    Thank you for your reply, everyone. :)

    entangled bank.
    In writing you could even use 'make/s'.
    Isn't it better to write "make/makes" instead of "make/s" if I choose to write like that?
    it is my understanding that a slash mark means "or", so "make/s" means "make or s".

    GreenWhiteBlue,
    there is never "one and only one rule" about ANYTHING in English.
    Is that true? For example, how about the rule that you must always use the dictionary form of verbs immediately after auxiliary verbs?

    MichaelW,
    I guess I should give up completely understanding about issue if even native speakers' opinions are divided. :)
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    For example, how about the rule that you must always use the dictionary form of verbs immediately after auxiliary verbs?

    If you were to ask a lot of native speakers this question, many would say "Huh?" because they wouldn't understand it - "What's an auxiliary verb?" would be a common response. English is often (more so these days, I gather) not taught to "native " speakers the way it is taught to non-native speakers.
    It is generally true that the "rules" are derived by listening/observing how people speak/write and then describing that. It is not the case that there are rules that people are taught before they start speaking the language they hear around them.
     
    GreenWhiteBlue,

    Is that true? For example, how about the rule that you must always use the dictionary form of verbs immediately after auxiliary verbs?

    If by "the dictionary form of the verb" you mean "the bare infinitive" (because otherwise I have no idea what you mean by "the dictionary form of the verb"), any such so-called "rule" would be profoundly wrong.

    The word "have" as used in perfect tenses is an auxiliary verb, but it is followed by the past participle, not the bare infinitive:

    I have seen that movie.:tick:
    I have see that movie.:cross:

    Pandora had opened the box.:tick:
    Pandora had open the box. :cross:
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    To me, and/or unambiguously represents an inclusive or, in the Boolean sense. Or by itself is ambiguous, sometimes being used inclusively, and sometimes exclusively.

    I am comfortable with the proximity rule for or, but for and/or I prefer the plural-always-overrides rule (at least tonight :)).

    The president and/or the vice president makes the decision.
    The judges and/or the President make the decision.
    Either the judges or the President makes the decision, but not both.

     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    make/s:

    If you were feeding this to a computer program, it would be true that it would look like a choice between 'make' and 's', unless you had programmed in some extra rules. But human beings have common sense, and 'make/s' is the obvious way of writing 'make/makes'. I think you'll find it's quite common in discussing language (though I don't know how to check that).
     

    sleepy sheep

    Member
    Japanese - Japan
    GreemWhiteBlue,

    I meant "can", "may", "will", "must" etc. by "auxiliary verbs".
    I meant, for example, write, not writes or wrote, by "the dictionary form of verbs".

    Thank you all for your repliles and opinions.
     
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