Is this sentence grammatically correct?

I just came across the following sentence in a book I’m reading:

“The snow fell nor did it cease to fall.”

Beyond simply sounding awkward, I think it’s also in error grammatically. By that I mean mustn’t some form of a ‘negative’ precede the ‘nor’? In other words, shouldn’t there be a ‘neither’ or a ‘never’ or some other negation before the ‘nor’? Or am I simply demonstrating my simple-minded, naive approach to such things?

Indeed, the author is no slouch and I’d be more than a little surprised if he made a grammatical error (although it could be a publisher’s typo, I suppose).

What do you think?


Seems perfectly grammatical, if a little poetic*, to me.

  • In the sense that it seems to me to be deliberately calling attention to its unusual construction.

The grammar is fine, although I agree it’s an awkward and somewhat pretentious construct.

I think it’s the author’s way to emphasize that the snowfall was steady and of a long duration. It also has a good meter.

Thanks all.

Wow, I have a bad ear for things like that. It sounded so wrong to me. There you go.

You noted that the sentence might be considered “poetic”,“pretentious”, and of “good meter”. In fact, it’s from The Road by Cormac McCarthy. He could well be described with each of those three characterizations. I’m impressed!

Well the word nor is a coordinating conjunction, (or, and, nor, for, but, or, yet, and so). I believe the British have more but those are the ones Americans use

This mean they joing two words or clauses of equal importance.

The difference between “or” and “nor” is they both present alternate ideas but “nor” presents an alternate negative idea

Yet seems by defintion to be better

Yet is used as a coordinationg conjuction to connect words or clauses that are contrary ideas that follow logically.

While it probably would pass a grammar test, to me it’s not the conjunction but use of the word “fell” that mucks it up

When one says the snow fell, it implies the snow is over, at least for a bit. If I wanted to say the snow fell, one can infer the snowfall is done with otherwise I’d use the word fall.

If I wanted to use both I’d use “and” as my conjunction

For example, the snow fell all night AND continues into the morning. This says the snowfall was over for the night.

So if it fell it has to be done with in relationship to something else. In totality or in my above example as connected to an event that’s over, such as night.

Since something that fell and is now falling again, yet serves that purpose.

That’s the nice thing about grammar it’s possible to find some kind of fault with most things. :slight_smile:

I wouldn’t say that. It perhaps suggests that it’s not snowing now, but that’s rather irrelevant to the sentence under consideration. Given that it’s in simple past tense, it says that the snow fell and kept falling AT SOME REFERENCE POINT OF TIME IN THE PAST. There’s nothing mucked up at all.

But the sentence does not say it is falling again, or even still. It’s not “nor did it EVER cease to fall.” It’s that it kept falling at the time in the past being referenced.

The term “error” tends to suggest an absolute where none exists, as far as English is concerned.

Nevertheless this usage is stilted and poor. I like Jack Lynch’s common-sense approach (at least where he agrees with me :wink: ) and he suggests limiting “nor” to occurrences following “neither.” See here:


Although there are other possibilities, you can’t go wrong if you use nor only after the word neither: instead of “Keats did not write novels nor essays,” use either “Keats did not write novels or essays” or “Keats wrote neither novels nor essays.” (You can, however, say “Keats did not write novels, nor did he write essays.”)"*

If one wanted to emphasize the interminable falling of the snow, the sentence you quote is better written:

“The snow fell and it did not cease to fall.”

Or, perhaps:

“The snow fell, and continued to fall.”


To my ear, it sounds archaic. It wouldn’t bother me to see it in a book set in the 17th century; it would bother me to see it in a book set in the present.

It’s awkward, cumbersome, and seems wrong.

“The snow fell and continues to fall” expresses the exact same sentiment, and does it much more cleanly and efficiently.

I think why it seems wrong is that the first clause is expressed positively.

“The snow fell.” This did something. So the continuation should reflect that. Nor is a negative expression, and should only be used as a conjunction for negative expressions.

“Keats did not write novels, nor did he write essays.” See? Keats did not do this, and he did not do that. But you wouldn’t say

“Keats wrote novels, nor did he write essays.” Wrong conjunction.

“The snow did not fall, nor did it continue to fall,” seems redundant, but the conjunction is correct.

“Neither did the snow fall, nor did it not fall.” While logically nonsensical, it has the correct structure.

I think it’s a terrible turn of phrase, because “nor” is a form of “or” meaning “only one of these.” To me the words as written mean:

“The snow fell or it did not cease to fall.”

But in the original sentence, the author’s intended meaning appears to be:

“The snow fell and it did not cease to fall.”

I think the usage does not communicate clearly what the author is trying to convey. When I first read the OP I read that line three or four times trying to figure out what the author was saying. I don’t think that was the intent of the author, so by definition it is poor usage (though perhaps not “incorrect”).

Typo? Because "the snow fell and continueD to fall expresses what the original sentence said. “…and continueS to fall” would apply if the original were “The snow fell nor has it ceased to fall.”

Yeah, I have no idea what it’s trying to say even now. There’s poetic license but in this case it results in the sentence having no real meaning.

But suppose that before that sentence, the author had been describing the activities of Thanksgiving Day. He had just described the noon meal. And then: “The snow fell nor did it cease to fall.”

Wouldn’t you have a fairly good idea of what the writer meant? It wouldn’t be precise, but I would think that the author was in for a long snowfall lasting at least until well after dark. It could have lasted until about daybreak of the next day. Maybe the continuing narrative would give a clue.

It is grammatical, and although I hesitate at first, the sentence is so beautiful in it rhythm and imagery that I love it and wonder where it’s been all these years!

It seems like a usage error to me. I’ve never seen “nor” follow a positive statement, only negative ones. It’s always (something didn’t happen) nor (did something else happen).

Neither did the snow not fall, nor did it cease to fall.


(But actually, I’m kind with Zoe on this one. The sentence seems fine to me, though oddly worded–but oddly worded in a way that I find pleasing rather than grating. Would depend on the context, though.)

I don’t see how that setup clarifies the meaning. I could understand that sentence only in the sense that I can understand these sentences:

I don’t have no money.
Don’t be going nowhere without telling me.

Which is to say, I had to make inferences to draw a reasonable conclusion about what the speaker could possibly have meant since the sentence at face value doesn’t make sense.

I think it might be a different usage of “nor”.

cf. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

That’s seems more like the construction quoted in the OP, but seems equally stilted to my ears (yet is clearly a classic line of prose).

Those sentences at face value make perfect sense. It takes inferential work to understand why someone would think they don’t make sense.

-Frylock, mindreader

A ha! I’ve been looking on google for a parallel usage but couldn’t find anything. Thanks for noticing this one.