Conjunctions are words used to bring together two distinct clauses or thoughts. However, using these words to bridge two statements could be at times confusing – particularly if the connecting word is not as common or straightforward as “but” or “and”. In other words, many writers stumble when using the word “nor” to link sentences.
To correctly use “nor” in a sentence, make sure the conjunction introduces a negative element or clause. Though “nor” can be used as a standalone word, it’s mostly paired with “neither”, an indefinite pronoun. Most importantly, do not use “either” instead of “neither” as a companion word for “nor”.
Keep reading to learn everything there is to know about using “nor” in a sentence (with and without “neither”), some example sentences with “nor” and with both “neither” and “nor” in them, and lots more.
Nor – Definition
The conjunction “nor” is a negative particle or connective that introduces the second negative clause or element in a sentence – typically following “neither” used in the first clause. This relationship between “neither” and “nor” is the opposite of the word pairing of “either” and “or”, with the latter pair having positive connotations. Needless to say, “either” and “nor”, or “neither” and “or” cannot be paired together.
How to Properly Use “Nor” in a Sentence
As aforementioned, “nor” is used in a sentence post a negative statement, to introduce one more negative element that adds to the first statement.
Beginning a Sentence with “Nor”
It’s perfectly fine to begin a sentence with “nor”. Those sentences are usually conversational in nature or immediately follow another sentence.
For example, Tom says “I have never used an iPhone before.” To which, Mary could say, “Nor have I.”
Starting a sentence with “nor” may sound a bit formal. If you’d like to make the conversation less formal, you may replace “nor” with “neither”. In other words, the second sentence in the above example could be, “Neither have I.”
The first sentence of a new paragraph usually cannot begin with “nor” since the word is a conjunction. If it’s used at the beginning of a sentence, the reader would want to know the context in which the sentence lies. For instance, the sentence “Nor have I” sounds incomplete and meaningless if it has no prior sentence to base itself on.
Here are a couple more sentences to explain the point:
“I have described the situation to you over and over again, but you just don’t seem to understand. Nor are you willing to try to make yourself understand.”
If you read just the second sentence starting with “nor” above, it would mean almost nothing.
Using “Neither” and “Nor”
In a sentence, “nor” is usually paired with “neither”. “Neither” is used before “nor” to set up the premise so that “nor” could introduce the next alternative or a set of alternatives. This pairing of the two words is called “correlative pairing”, which states the information a particular term introduces is related or connected to the information introduced by the other term. The two words could be incorporated when discussing events or when listing nouns.
However, “nor” is not always dependent on or needs “neither” in a sentence. It could at times feature in sentences without “neither” in the initial clause. In such cases, the conjunction is typically a part of the first clause.
Also, “nor” and “neither” are interchangeable. Take a look at the following sentences:
- He cannot fix my phone and neither/nor can I.
- The cops are unable to take questions at this point in time, nor/neither can they make public the name of the suspect.
- My family didn’t believe in me, nor/neither did my close friends.
Though a sentence can have the conjunction “nor” by itself, it isn’t the norm. The sentence with just “nor” could, in fact, read a bit unnatural and stiff at times. And since the usage of “nor” without “neither” is not common, it may lead to some readers believing you framed the sentence wrong.
Another point worth mentioning is both “neither” and “nor” work parallelly. This means the clauses or phrases they introduce individually should be of the same type. In other words, the phrase that follows the two words should be a noun or a verb. “Neither” cannot be introducing a noun, and “nor” introducing a verb in the same sentence. For example,
- “She saw neither Jim nor Andre during the excursion.” This sentence is correct as both “neither” and “nor” are introducing the proper nouns “Jim” and “Andre” respectively.
- “She neither saw Jim nor spoke to Andre during the excursion.” This sentence is also correct as the two correlative words introduce a verb.
- “She neither saw Jim nor Andre during our trip.” This sentence is not correct as the word “neither” is followed by a verb, whereas a noun follows “nor”.
As mentioned above, “neither” and “nor” introduce clauses that have negative undercurrents, and “either” and “or” have positive connotations. This means breaking the respective pairs and interchanging the words is incorrect. In other words, the following sentences are wrong:
- Todd neither knows the game’s rules or tries to know.
- I will either head to the bookstore nor buy groceries.
Also, if the sentence has its tenses mixed, consider the second noun – which is usually the noun after “nor”. The verb should be determined based on the tense of the second noun or “nor”.
Here are a couple of sentences for a better understanding of the rule:
- Neither they nor she are keen. (Incorrect)
- Neither they nor she is keen. (Correct)
Using “Nor” in the Same Sentence Twice
Like mentioned before, “nor” is used in a sentence to introduce a secondary clause or element. When it’s introducing more than one element, however, the word could be used more than once in the same sentence.
Here is a sentence with “nor” mentioned once:
- I like neither goat milk nor camel milk.
The two elements in the sentence are “goat milk” and “camel milk”. If the same sentence had more than two elements, it would read like this:
- I like neither goat milk nor camel milk nor cow milk. I like only buffalo milk.
Here are a couple more sentences with a couple of mentions of “nor”:
- He can neither write nor read, nor is he capable of comprehending such concepts.
- They will not wait for me, nor for you, nor for anybody.
Also, the conjunction “nor” could feature more than twice in the same sentence. Here is an example sentence:
- Neither rain, nor snow, nor night gloom, nor heat can prevent these courier companies from completing their appointed rounds.
Using “Or” in Place of “Nor”
The conjunction “nor” is used to denote a continuing negative state. The two negative items emphasized using the words “neither” and “nor” are part of the same speech. However, there are instances when you can use “or” instead of “nor”.
Typically, a sentence that uses “or” doesn’t have “neither” in it. The conjunction “neither” is invariably replaced with “not”. Here are a few sentences illustrating the point:
- She is not keen on studying science or math.
This sentence cannot be framed as, “She is neither keen on studying science or math.”
Similarly, “He didn’t speak clearly or slowly” is grammatically correct. On the other hand, “He didn’t speak clearly nor slowly” is not right.
Example Sentences with the Word “Nor”
The following are sentences that incorporate the word “nor”:
- The virus cannot survive in people with strong immunity, nor in nature.
- I do not work for anyone other than Jim, nor do I bid on behalf of anybody else.
- I smiled from the heart, without a curfew nor bounds.
- She wants to leave the town when she is 21, nor does she want to move to the neighboring city.
- The fans do not want to see her go – nor do I.
- Cooking does not mean a sacrifice of flavors and taste. Nor do all fast-food items are junk.
- I am almost never up at 5 in the morning, nor would I like waking up at 6 am.
- The report was finished on time, nor are there any mistakes in it.
- He did not hear the birds nor the clock.
Here are sentences that use both “neither” and “nor”:
- The trip was neither great nor bad – it just was.
- Having said that, neither Tim nor I smoke.
- Neither that behavior nor that statement is helping reduce the tension.
- Neither Mr. Wood nor Mr. Terrence showed up for the meeting held yesterday.
- I can neither offer you advice nor an opinion.
- I neither like pizza nor fancy the cheese.
- She drinks neither beer nor wine.
- Neither Mary nor Tom can speak Spanish.
- Neither dogs nor cats are permitted into the restaurant.
- Tony was a complete wreck, and I am quite sure neither Jacob nor I was any better.
- Neither my dad nor my mom went to college.
The conjunction “nor” offers a lot more options to link two or more sentences or create lists. However, in the process of doing so, quite a few adept writers could end up making errors atypical of them. It’s, therefore, imperative to pay close attention to sentence structure and formation when using “nor” and other conjunctions.
If you are a newbie writer or a non-native speaker working on their English, particularly writing in the language, above are some major pointers for your perusal.