[quote=“jbrow, post:1, topic:680547”]
“I authorize and direct the Minister to make all payments if I or my former spouse apply (applies?) for benefits under the plan.”
Is it apply or applies? My gut tells me it is apply because I and former spouse are singular subjects.
But I’m confused as to why it is not “applies” because isn’t my “former spouse” 3rd person singular?
Also, where this came from was a legal document where I has to come before my former spouse.
The general rule in an “either/or” situation like this is to make the verb agree with its first antecedent (the noun referring to the person/thing performing the action). However, this applies in your sentence primarily because the antecedents are each singular and only one of them will presumably apply; if the conjunction were “and” rather than “or,” the use of the plural verb would be obvious. Also, if the conjunction creates a group out of two subjects, one singular and one plural, modern style is to consider the SECOND antecedent to be that which dictates the verb form, unless, frankly, the sentence sounds so dumb with one verb form that you choose the other in order not to make your readers gag. (Believe me, there are cups of espresso being hurled in the faculty lounges of English departments even as we speak over issues such as this.)
So my vote is for “apply.”