As a pronoun, neither is construed as a singular. That is, it should take a singular verb, and any word for which neither is an antecedent should also be singular. Thus, neither of the offers was a good one is grammatically better than neither of the offers were good ones.GMAU acknowledges that some sentences can be tricky: the plural form in neither of my parents worked for themselves avoids a certain awkwardness. Garner’s suggested recasting: neither of my parents was self-employed.
But Thirsty’s sentence gets a pass from two grammarians. Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey Pullum, A Student’s Introduction to English Grammar (2005):
Subjects with any, no, and none occur freely with either singular or plural agreement. With neither, and even more with either, singular agreement is usual; plural agreement is informal, and condemned by prescriptivists.For Huddleston and Pullum, Neither of them seems valid and Neither of them seem valid are both valid.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage (1994) advises the reader to just be (cough, cough) themselves:
If you are writing something in a highly formal style, you will probably want to use formal agreement throughout. Otherwise, follow your own inclination in choosing singular or plural constructions after neither.Such guidance seems to me only to muddy the waters. Is an essay for a freshman comp class likely to be written in “a highly formal style”? I doubt it. Would it be smart in writing that essay to use singular forms with neither? Absolutely.
Even Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style (2014) pulls back from okaying plural forms:
Neither means “not one of the two,” and it is singular: Neither book was any good, not Neither book were any good. The same is true of either, even when it picks one item from a pair: Either of the candidates is experienced enough to run the country, not are.It’s interesting to see Pinker agreeing with Garner and not with Pullum. But it is impossible to imagine any of these observations as useful to Mr. Thurston. When you’re a comic-strip character, subject-verb agreement is out of your hands.
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