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Re: Additional English training (for use in package description reviews)

Martin Eberhard Schauer wrote:
> I wonder whether
> "If <action> is requested by <some_programm>, and
>  neither <parameter_1> nor <parameter_2> is set,  then
> <parameter_1>  is implied ..."
> is correct.


> I understand that a parameter is required. Not providing the
>  parameter will result in using a default value. But I don't know
> whether to use singular or plural.

I'm afraid I'm not even sure which one would cause you uncertainty -
are you contemplating "<action> are requested", "neither
<parameter_1> nor <parameter_2> are set", or "<parameter_1> are 
implied"?  The second one is the only one that sounds at all
plausible, and I would still avoid it in writing (just as I would
write "either Sam or Pat is guilty", not "are guilty").

In spoken English passives and "nor" constructions aren't used as
much, so what I'd expect to hear is something more like:

 "If <some_program> requests <action>, and neither of <parameter_1>
 and <parameter_2> are set, this implies <parameter_1>..."

"Neither of them are" is also commonly used in written English.
However, some people avoid it in formal contexts for the same reason
that they avoid "none of them are": old-fashioned prescriptive
grammars claim that "none" means "not one" and is therefore always 
singular - "none of those people is welcome".

This rule may sound logical, but there's no evidence it has ever been
a real feature of English grammar as spoken by ordinary anglophones.
After all, normal native-speaker English even uses plural agreement
for things like "no exceptionS" or "one point zero zero degreeS".
JBR	with qualifications in linguistics, experience as a Debian
	sysadmin, and probably no clue about this particular package

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