Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"

Today, we answer a listener’s question about ‘neither nor’ in English.

Grammar experts disagree on how this should work in English!

This can make it extremely confusing!

Listen in today for a simple pro trip to avoid this English grammar trap.

This way, you will have one less thing to worry about.

Who’s lazy?

Lindsay asks Aubrey if she thinks either of them are lazy.

Aubrey says neither of them are lazy.

She has been working with Lindsay for years and she definitely is not lazy.

She has found her to be a hustler.

Lindsay often works long hours and is very busy.

Aubrey is the same.

She crams everything that can be done in a day as much as possible.

It’s very rare that they just sit and do nothing.

Avoiding ‘neither you nor I’

When Aubrey answered Lindsay’s question, she didn’t answer with ‘neither you nor I are lazy.’

It’s too formal and wordy to use that structure.

It is correct grammar but it is not commonly used in day-to-day conversation.

In addition, experts disagree about whether it should be ‘neither you nor I are’ or ‘neither you nor I am.’

In today’s episode, Lindsay and Aubrey will share how you can easily connect using conversational English.

You don’t want to sound disjointed and too formal when talking casually with a native English speaker.

Today’s question

Dear Lindsay, Michelle, and Aubrey, I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to express my deep appreciation for your podcast, which has been a valuable resource for English learners like myself, especially for those living in non-English speaking countries. Your conversations and role plays have made learning English so much fun and have greatly enhanced my language skills outside the classroom.

I have a question regarding English grammar that has been puzzling me, which is about using “neither” and “nor” in sentences. For example, I’ve been taught to say “Neither you nor I am responsible for this.” But recently, I’ve been corrected by Grammarly and chatGPT, saying “Neither you nor I are responsible for this” is right. So, I asked one of my native English teachers, and he said “are” is actually the way to go. I even checked the Longman dictionary, and it mentioned that “am” is more formal while “are” is more casual. That got me a bit confused. I would appreciate it if you could talk about how to use “neither… nor” correctly. Your advice would mean a lot to me.

Thank you so much for your time and for providing such a fantastic resource for English learners like me.

Warm regards,
Stephanie from Taiwan

English grammar trap to avoid

English grammar can be confusing when grammar experts don’t all agree.

Different grammarians will have different advice.

Lindsay and Aubrey will give you some insight into this grammar structure.

They’ll share how you can avoid this grammar trap.

Option #1: ‘Neither you nor I are’

Some grammarians will say ‘Neither you nor I are responsible for this’ is correct.

Their reasoning is that ‘Neither you nor I’ is taken as a whole unit.

Therefore, because it’s two people, the verb should be plural: are.

Option #2: ‘Neither you nor I am’

Others will argue that a principle called proximity concord governs this structure.

  • proximity concord: the closest subject to the verb determines whether it is singular or plural

In this case, we would say, ‘Neither you nor I am responsible for this.’

What sounds correct?

At the end of the day, native speakers use what they’re used to hearing.

There is no wrong answer here.

Aubrey and Lindsay share that they hear both.

Why are we calling this a ‘grammar trap?’

This is because even grammar experts disagree.

Whichever you use, someone might say you are wrong.

Grammarly or ChatGPT might say you’re correct.

However, the person hearing you or reading your writing may consider it incorrect.

Pro tip

Our tip is to remove the problem!

There are many other ways to word a ‘neither nor’ statement.

These statements will be less wordy and more informal.

#1: Use a compound subject.

Here is a quick example: “You and I are not responsible for this.”

In this sentence, ‘you and I’ is a plural compound subject.


  • Instead of saying: “Neither Maria nor I are able to make it to the meeting.”
  • You can say: “Maria and I are not able to attend the meeting.”
  • Instead of saying: “Neither he nor I can hear the speaker.”
  • You can say: “He and I both can’t hear the speaker.”

#2: Use ‘we’ or ‘neither of us’

Instead of ‘Neither she nor I are responsible for this,’ you can say, “We aren’t responsible for this.”

This simplifies and makes your sentence shorter instead of using ‘neither… nor.’


  • Instead of saying: “Neither you nor I can make it to the meeting.”
  • You can say: “We can’t make it to the meeting.”
  • Instead of saying: “Neither he nor I like fish.”
  • You can say: “We don’t like fish.”


Here is a quick roleplay from Lindsay and Aubrey using the grammar pro tips shared in today’s episode.

In this scenario, Lindsay and Aubrey have just arrived at a friend’s party.

Aubrey: We both didn’t bring anything! At least it’s not just me. I wasn’t sure if this was a potluck.
Lindsay: Jason told me they were catering all the food so we didn’t need to bring anything.
Aubrey: Oh good to know. And you and I both didn’t dress up. I was hoping it was casual.
Lindsay: I wasn’t sure either but it looks like everyone else is casual. Thank goodness!


English grammar contains some ‘traps’ that are best avoided.

Today’s tips help you know how to avoid English mistakes and give you one less thing to worry about.

Don’t let grammar hinder you from making connections and building relationships.

Avoid structures that would make you sound disjointed or too formal.

It will sound robotic when you always stick to sounding grammatically correct.

Make sure you match your vocabulary to the situation, with less formal vocabulary for day-to-day conversation.

You can avoid tricky grammar rules and sound more like a native English speaker.

What are other grammar rules you find confusing?

Share one in the comments below.

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