Every similar example I've found contains the expected 1st person plural (like "hemos visto").

I'm referring to this excerpt from La casa de Bernarda Alba by Federico García Lorca:

Muchacha: (A Angustias) Pepe el Romano estaba con los hombres del duelo.

Angustias: Allí estaba.

Bernarda: Estaba su madre. Ella ha visto a su madre. A Pepe no lo ha visto ni ella ni yo. Las mujeres en la iglesia no deben mirar más hombre que al oficiante, y a ése porque tiene faldas. Volver la cabeza es buscar el calor de la pana. (Dando un golpe de bastón en el suelo.) ¡Alabado sea Dios!

Apparently, the noun closest to the verb dictates whether to use plural or singular in niether nor statements with singular being the default correct choice in English. My source is the English Stack Exchange which devolves into an argument about what is correct, the plural version used by all the native speakers based on usage statistics, or pedantic grammar books. My question still stands in Spanish.

  • 1
    I think García Lorca sought a "mirroring effect" by putting together "Ella ha visto a su madre" and the negative sentence "A Pepe no lo ha visto ni ella ni yo," as if meaning: "Ella ha visto a su madre pero a Pepe no lo ha visto ella (ni tampoco yo)" -> Subject - Verb - Direct Object / Direct Object - Verb - Subject. "ella" is the main character there -- the presence of "yo" is secondary. I feel that the use of "hemos" would have disrupted that effect, as well as reduced the contrast between both sentences.
    – Gustavson
    Feb 10, 2017 at 0:41

2 Answers 2


"A Pepe no lo ha visto ni ella ni yo" is, according to Spanish grammar, incorrect. In colloquial language the speaker might feel tempted to use the singular as a result of the phenomenon known as "number by proximity" if the noun or pronoun next to the verb and appearing after it is singular (in which case the second noun or pronoun would probably be added as an afterthought), but if we stick to grammar rules, the plural form should be used: "A Pepe no lo hemos visto ni ella ni yo". The verb has to be used in first person plural in line with this principle: si hay un pronombre de primera persona, la concordancia se establece en primera persona del plural: «¿Te acuerdas de aquel día en que bailamos Chema, tú y yo?» (Diosdado Trescientos [Esp. 1991]). (This is the source. See item 2 c).) None of the exceptions listed under 4) of the mentioned source applies in this case.

N.B. I just realized by reading a comment that I took something for granted, and would like to make it explicit now: "ni...ni" are coordinating conjunctions in Spanish, equivalent to "not ... and not", so where item 2 c) of the source I cited starts with "Si entre dos o más elementos coordinados..." it should be understood that "ni...ni" are included in that definition. For the sake of clarity, here I found an article by Justo Fernández López that explains the question perfectly. (You may rest assured that any article by this man that you may find on the Internet is absolutely reliable. Notice that all his conclusions are based on RAE publications.)

  • +1 for the link. I have read your entire source because it was interesting. Especially interesting was the part saying adjectives preceding a sequence of nouns agree with the closest, while after the nouns will go in plural. Adjective agreement in either or cases was explained, however subject verb agreement in "niether... nor" subjects is not in the document. Feb 9, 2017 at 22:36
  • @user135711 Please see what I just added above.
    – Gustavson
    Feb 9, 2017 at 23:48
  • Your Justo Fernández López is a good one; I have long appreciated the gentleman’s observations on the language. One surprise I did find in your references. Although my brain automatically inflects into the plural things like Ni tu madre ni yo lo sabemos, as it would sound “wrong” to say that with a singular verb, your RAE reference does include the example of Ni aquello ni esto hubiera sido posible. But that seems to owe itself more to the matter of coordinated neutral indefinites merging into another of the same, thereby remaining notionally singular.
    – tchrist
    Feb 11, 2017 at 21:42
  • 1
    @tchrist Yes, that is indeed a curious case. As you say, it is the neuter gender and the indefiniteness of those pronouns that accounts for the singular. The plural sounds terrible: * Ni aquello ni esto hubieran sido posibles. Instead, these sound fine: Ni aquélla ni ésta hubieran sido posibles. (the elided noun might be "solución") / Ni aquél ni éste hubieran sido posibles. (the elided noun might be "paso", that is, "step")
    – Gustavson
    Feb 11, 2017 at 21:54

The way it is wrote, it is indeed incorrect.

However, I think it could be correct with a single pause in between:

A Pepe no lo ha visto; ni ella ni yo.

This would be correct if one includes some parts that would normally be omitted in casual conversation (this is called ellipsis):

A Pepe no lo ha visto (ella); ni ella (lo ha visto) ni yo (tampoco).

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