The Da Vinci Code, Sofia Coppola’s Marie-Antoinette, and an Error in Subject/Verb Agreement

May 25, 2006

Neither Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code nor Sofia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette were well-received at the Cannes Film Festival, as film critics booed during the screening of each film.

This sentence contains an error in subject/verb agreement. When subjects in a sentence are linked by the correlative conjunctions "neither/nor," the subject that is closer to the verb determines the number of the verb. The "neither/nor" pairing of two singular subjects does not use a plural verb.

In this sentence, the subject closer to the verb "were" is "Sofia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette." Titles of works (such as books, plays, and movies) are singular, so the verb in this sentence should be singular. Change "were" to "was" to correct this sentence.

Neither Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code nor Sofia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette was well-received at the Cannes Film Festival, as film critics booed during the screening of each film.

A simple trick to use when determining agreement in sentences that contain the correlative conjunctions "either/or" and "neither/nor" is to cross off all the words from "either" (or "neither") to "or" (or "nor"). The subject will now stand out, making it easier to match its number with that of the verb.

Neither Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code nor Sofia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette was well-received at the Cannes Film Festival, as film critics booed during the screening of each film.

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