Page:A Desk-Book of Errors in English.djvu/87

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Errors in English

correct the sentence should be "Either is likely to sail." However, in its best and strictest usage either, as has already been said, means "one or the other of these," as, "either horn of a dilemma"; but there is authority for its use as "any" and "each of two" or "both." The former of these is, however, a distinctly improper use, and the latter—though sanctioned by "on either side one, and Jesus in the midst," (John xix, 18) is better left unsaid.

either you or I are (am or is) right: Which should it be? You are; I am; who is—which of the two? The complete sentence is clearly "Either you (are right) or I (am right)." If the pronoun had been coupled, as in "Both you and I" the plural verb would of course follow; but the very fact of this would seem to indicate that where they are distinctly disjoined, as here, the verb should not be plural and should therefore be singular. Yet who could say "either you or I am right." Peculiar as it is—it being impossible to say either "you is" or "I is" the solution is to be found in the use of is; and the correct rendering is, "Either you or I—one of us—is right." Dr. Latham cites the rule thus, "Wherever the word either or neither precedes the pronouns, the verb is in the third person." He adds a second rule to the effect that if the disjunctive is without the word either or neither, then the verb agrees with the first of the two pronouns. He would