6

Simple question:

For "Entweder ... oder ..." is the rule: this one thing OR that other thing, correct? So a sentence with that connector would require the singular, because in the end only one thing (out of the two) is so to speak "acting", as follows:

Entweder meine Frau oder mein Kind HAT gestern Nacht den Hund geweckt.

Die Lösung für dieses Problem KANN 10 oder 100 sein.

However, for "Weder ... noch ..." is the rule: not this one thing AND not this other thing correct? So it would require the plural, because it's not this thing AND it's not that thing. (At least that's what I read in my book.)

Weder er noch sie KÖNNEN die Frage unserer Lehrerin beantworten.

Weder mein Freund noch mein Lehrer WISSEN, was gerade passiert ist.

Is my conclusion correct? Or do people use the singular for "Weder ... noch ..." too? (kann), (weiß)

5

Your first claim (A XOR B) is generally true, but there are exceptions:

  • Plural is used when one of A and B are in plural:

    Entweder deine Eltern oder deine Tante werden dich heute besuchen

  • Rarely, plural can be used even if both A and B are in singular

    Entweder die Lehrerin oder der Lehrer können das Buch frei aussuchen

Weder ... noch can stand with a verb either in singular or in plural:

Weder der Vater noch der Grossvater wusste, wo die Mutter war

or

Weder der Vater noch der Grossvater wussten, wo die Mutter war

Generally speaking, German is by far not as picky here as some other languages, like English for example.

A more detailed explanation can be found here

  • 1
    Thank you for your answer and sorry for the late reply! For your first exception regarding "Entweder...oder..." shouldn't it be plural, only when the noun that's nearest to the verb is in plural? So in your case it should be "Entweder deine Eltern oder deine Tante wird dich heute besuchen." But it would be werden, when you say "Entweder deine Tante oder deine Eltern werden dich heute besuchen." At least that's what I got from reading the website you gave me. What do you think? Thanks! – user38477 Jun 22 '19 at 10:18
  • As said, German is by far not as picky as, for example, English in this respect. In my opinion, in daily use, both singular and plural are perfectly acceptable if one of the nouns is plural - regardless if the singular or plural noun is closer to the verb. Personally, I prefer to use the plural in this case. – tofro Jun 22 '19 at 11:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy