Posted by ESC on November 06, 2003
In Reply to: "I don't know its Chinese name or/nor its English name." posted by ABC on November 06, 2003
: "I don't know its Chinese name or/nor its English name." Should OR or NOR be used in the above sentence? What is the rule or convention involved here? Thanks.
There's probably a shorter, simpler answer. But I don't know what it is.
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. 1
More at neither and or.
When all the elements in a series connected by or are singular, the verb they govern is singular: Tom or Jack is coming. Beer, ale, or wine is included in the charge. When all the elements are plural, the verb is plural. When the elements do not agree in number, some people say that the verb should agree in number with the nearest element: Tom or his sisters are coming. The girls or their brother is coming. Cold symptoms or a headache is the usual first sign. But others object that these constructions are inherently illogical and that the only solution is to revise the sentence to avoid the problem of agreement: Either Tom is coming or his sisters are. The first sign is usually cold symptoms or a headache. 1
More at either, neither, nor, and subject and verb agreement.