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Neither-Nor vs. Either-Or

Updated on August 1, 2014

What is the difference between "neither-nor" and "either-or"?

I recently received an email with the following question: "Peter has not gone to school today, _______ has he done his homework.” The question was regarding whether "neither" or "nor" should be placed in the blank. What do you think? If you're not sure, read the explanations for the two pairings and then try.

"Neither" and "Nor"

"Neither" is a singular adjective and can be paired with "nor" in a sentence. "Neither" is never paired with "or". When using "neither" in a sentence, you are saying not the first object and not the second object are behaving in a certain way. The nouns/pronouns are in agreement with one another. "Nor" can also be used independently when negating the second part of two negative clauses.

  • Neither Corie nor Bob went to the play.
    Corie isn't going to the play. Bob isn't going to the play.
  • She said, "I don't like broccoli." I said, "Neither do I."
    Neither is used here because she doesn't like broccoli, and I don't like broccoli. (You may hear people say,"Me neither," this is colloquial and not grammatically correct. You wouldn't say, "Me don't like broccoli.")
  • She didn't want to sing, nor did she want to dance.

"Either" and "Or"

"Either" is also a singular adjective. It means one or the other, but not both. "Either" expresses one noun/pronoun doing one thing and the other noun/pronoun doing another; in this way it is a "positive" word because what is occurring is true. "Either" can be paired with "or", but not "nor".

  • She wanted to paint either a landscape or a self-portrait.
    She wanted to paint one or the other, but not both.
  • I can't remember if either Georgia or Julia wanted a doll for Christmas.
    One of the girls wanted a doll, but not both.

The Singular and Plural of It...

Remember: If your element (the words that follow neither or either) is singular, then your verb needs to be singular; if one or both of your elements is plural, then your verb need to be plural.

  • Neither Jaymee nor Dave is having a party.
    Jaymee and Dave are singular, so you use the singular "is", not "were".
  • Either the dancer or the acrobats are doing the tricks.
    One of the subjects is plural, so "are" instead of "is" is used.

The question remains....

What is the answer to the above question: “Peter has not gone to school today, _______ has he done his homework”?

First, we know that it is not "either" or "or" because Peter is not doing both actions. Another way to look at this sentence is to think of it worded like this: Peter has neither gone to school today, nor has he done his homework. So, the correct answer would be "nor". We also know that "nor" can be used independently when negating the second part of two independent clauses.

Thoughts, Comments or Questions?

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      Kumara 3 years ago

      Robin, you wrote, "She didn't want to sing, nor did she want to dance."

      How about this: "She didn't want to sing, nor dance."

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      goujing haokip 4 years ago

      Which one is correct?

      Either Sam or his sisters are going out for a picnic.


      Either Sam or his sisters is going out for a picnic.

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      a.halem 5 years ago

      what kind of part of speech do "neither nor" and "either or" belong to,

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      Kyle 5 years ago

      @Jeff Hey Jeff, you sound like you're very well versed, and have an excellent grasp with the English language, as well as being proficient with it's proper usage. (Is this a run on sentence, by the way? Also, does the first word need to be capitalized inside the parenthesis, or does it only matter if it's the beginning of a new sentence? Did I need a comma before "by the way," at the beginning of this very long subtext inside said parenthesis?) And, is it true that and, and other conjunctions can be placed at the beginning of sentences now? As I've been taught most of my life that in proper English, it was unacceptable to do so. Should I have used "as well," instead of saying "And is it true that and, and other.." in my sentence above? Last one, I think, when and why is it proper to use a comma before a quotation mark, and the same for after a quotation mark? Not quite the last one, would you mind giving me "when and why's" for all of my questions. Last one, could you correct any other discrepancies in my grammar throughout this entry? I know it sounds like I'm trolling, but I'm actually genuinely curious, and am a bit of a grammar nazi.

      Thanks, Kyle.

      p.s. I'm commenting on an iPad, and just confirmed to myself that you can, in fact, press shift+return to create proper spacing to add a closing and signature. (Very last one, was this post script grammatically correct where I said, "in fact?" with a comma before and after the phrase?)

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      Jeff 5 years ago

      ?????? ????, Tim! Regarding the examples you gave, both 1.1 and 2.2 are incorrect because English, unlike Russian, does not usually permit a double negative.

      "I can neither understand nor believe in what I saw" is a grammatically correct sentence. If I were your editor, though, I might suggest you change it a bit.

      First, "believe in" is usually used for an idea or a dogma, not something we see or hear. For example, "He believes in God, but not in eternal hell." Or, "It's getting harder and harder to believe in democracy." Or, "I don't believe in kissing on the first date."

      Second, a more difficult point. If I don't believe in the reality of something, can I understand it? First I have to believe that it exists before I can understand it as a real thing, and not just a theory or delusion. In a case where I saw something that looks like a UFO I could say, "I can neither understand nor believe what I saw," but perhaps it makes even more sense to say: "I can't believe what I saw, much less understand it." Or I could say, "Far from understanding what I saw, I can't even believe that I saw it." In other words, "I can't believe in the reality of what appeared to me, much less understand that reality."

      The phrase "much less" is used with a negative sentence. For example, if you are Russian and I asked you if you'd read Shakespeare, you could say, "I haven't read Pushkin, much less Shakespeare." It means, "I haven't even read Pushkin, whom many Russians read, so of course I haven't read Shakespeare."

      "I'm a little confusing about this." What you mean to say is, "I'm a little confused about this." Feelings and inner states are expressed by ~ed (surprised, confused, tired), while conditions or actions that make others feel those feelings are expressed by ~ing (surprising, confusing, tiring).

      Perhaps at the end of this you may think, "Jeff's boring explanation was puzzling and confusing! Now I'm even more puzzled and confused--and perplexed and frustrated, too!" In that case I would be embarrassed and disappointed, because I didn't want my explanation to be boring or perplexing or frustrating.

      Good luck!

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      Angel 6 years ago

      Hi Tim,

      I would choose the first one....

      I can neither understand nor believe in what I saw..... (something)

      That sounds better :)

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      Tim_B 6 years ago

      Good day everyone!

      My name is Tim, I'm from Moscow...

      I've got a question about how should I write the following:

      1. I can neither understand nor believe in what I saw..... (something)


      1.1. I can't neither understand nor believe in what i saw.... (something next)

      2 I would neither understand nor believe in what I saw..... (something)


      2.2. I would't neither understand nor believe in what I saw..... (something)

      Or both are incorrect ?

      I'm a little confusing about this... :-)

      Thank's in advance


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      lona 6 years ago

      is this sentens true:nither does he like to go,nor does he like to play

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      Sophy 6 years ago

      If someone says, "I cannot wait to see you". Is it correct to respond, me either?

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      cleopatra labonita 6 years ago

      thx it's so lovely to help us am one of english learners but plz i want more details am in need

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      lola 6 years ago

      which is correct to say?

      a) none of my parents is greek

      b)neither of my parents is greek

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      Miguel Domingo 6 years ago

      Thanks a lot. I am an english learner I have problem with these...

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      screenscriber 6 years ago

      Belated thanks Jeff - very helpful!

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      Jeff 6 years ago

      One of the sample sentences given near the beginning is:

      Either the dancer or the acrobats are doing the tricks.

      Robin explains that if one of the subjects is plural, the verb ought to be plural too, and I pretty much agree with her. Commentators have questioned whether the sentence would be okay if it read, "Either the acrobats or the dancer are doing the tricks," some insisting that since "dancer" is immediately before the verb, the verb should also be singular: Either the acrobats or the dancer is doing the tricks.

      In cases like this, there's a third and better alternative: rewrite the sentence so that this problem doesn't occur. Here are a few ways:

      The tricks are being performed by either the dancer or the acrobats.

      The tricks are being performed either by the dancer or by the acrobats.

      Either the dancer is doing the tricks or the acrobats are.

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      Jeff 6 years ago

      Screenscriber, as a general rule, "either" goes with "or" and "neither" goes with "nor." "Nor" is the correct choice here. Even if it sounds antiquated or out-of-place to you here, "nor" is a perfectly nor-mal word in modern English, spoken as well as written.

      Of course it doesn't matter much when you're speaking, unless you have really picky friends, but if you're submitting your PhD thesis, it's better to follow the grammatical rules. In the case of a sentence you really feel uncomfortable with, you might try rewording:

      Kathy and Shirley have not talked about…

      Both Kathy and Shirley have avoided talking about…

      Kathy and Shirley never talk about… anymore.

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      Edge Badz 6 years ago

      hi, it is very useful...i am so thankful that i was able to search this...i am now ready for my teaching demonstration which is about neither and either.

      thanks a lot.

      God Bless and have a great day.

      from: edgebadz-Philippines

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      screenscriber 6 years ago

      Here's my sentence - should I use "or" or "nor"?

      "Neither Kathy or Shirley have talked about these issues in a long time."

      I ask because somehow using "nor" here feels over the top, almost intrusive on a sentence that otherwise sounds right and flows well. Perhaps what I'm really asking is whether it is acceptable in modern English to go with "or" in certain situations, rather than "nor" (even if "nor" is grammatically correct).

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      Jeff 6 years ago

      Emily, basically "either" is used with two objects; with more than two objects, we drop "either" or perhaps use "any" instead.

      After the stroke Mary couldn't lift either of her legs or move any of the fingers on her right hand.

      But there are cases where we use "either" with three or more objects to emphasize that ONLY ONE of the objects is to be chosen, is pertinent, etc.

      To flavor the soup, we use either salt, miso, or soy sauce.

      This sentence would work without "either," but having "either" emphasizes that we have use just one of the three condiments.

      Either walk, hitchhike, or take the tram.

      Having "either" in the above sentence implies that these are your only alternatives. Taking a taxi wouldn't work.

      As for the example you gave, if you want to emphasize that those three rooms are the only ones you would go to--not the gorilla room or the aardvark room--then "either" is useful. Otherwise, you probably don't need it.

      Btw, in this case I would say "head TO the kitten room," not "head INTO the kitten room." I would use "head into" to describe going into the middle of something: "head into a crowd" or "head into traffic" or "head into a storm."

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      Emily 6 years ago

      I have a question:

      Can you use either for more than two objects?

      Here's my example:

      When I need a break, I’ll head into either the kitten room, cat room, or rabbit room and play with the quieter animals.

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      Jeff 6 years ago

      Mason, the sentence you suggest should begin with "Both," not "Either."

      Both you and your friend are beautiful, my sister.

      The subject is the pronoun "both," which plural. Contrary to what Robin and some other commentators say, the pronouns "either" and "neither" are singular and should be followed by a singular verb.

      Both of the sisters are available.

      Neither of the sisters is available.

      Either of the sisters is available.

      In all three of these correct sentences the subject is the first word, not "sisters."

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      Mason 6 years ago

      Is this correct???

      Either you and your friend are beautiful my sister.

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      Either Bob or boB 6 years ago

      How would I translate this statement into an equivalent statement that uses neither "or" nor "and" : (a) Two sets are equal or they have nothing in common. (b) A given number is a perfect square and the number is less than 1000?

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      vicky 6 years ago

      please helpe me ok i confused here i can understan either and neither its confused for me

    • profile image 6 years ago

      Thank you i don't know iether neither o nor when i write a sentence mostly i write wrong sentence if the either or neither in the sentence. i would like to get more clasifying sentences about either and neither.

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      Kevin 6 years ago

      Robin, that last part is absolutely wrong.

      "OR" does NOT compound subjects as PLURAL.

      ONLY THE WORD "AND" can compound subjects!!!

      If you have two subjects in a sentence, it could be plural or singular DEPENDING ON WHICH SUBJECT IS CLOSEST TO THE VERB!!!

      Flip your subjects, you'll see what I mean.

      "Either the dancer or the acrobats are doing the tricks"

      That's correct, but lets flip it and try it YOUR WAY.

      "Either the acrobats or the dancer are doing the trick"

      ARE? No Robin, that's wrong.

      The SINGULAR subject "dancer," because it is closer to the verb, makes the verb singular.

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      Tom 6 years ago

      Should the verb be singular or plural in this case:

      Neither Tom, Dick nor Harry was present at the party.

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      jana 6 years ago

      Tell us clearly how should we treat the verb with niether? Should we put it in the singular or the plural.

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      poov 6 years ago

      thanx for clearin my doubt

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      Anu 6 years ago


      Neither Rob nor Cate __________ (remember/ remembers ) any such meeting.

      answer: remember ???

      please help!

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      aparna 6 years ago

      if two different verbs are used in either-or, neither-nor then what about the structure? please clarify my doubt.

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      samah 7 years ago

      thanks a lot

      it's reaally helps

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      Ibraheem 7 years ago

      Thank you so much ..

      I looked for that one for long time ..

      Now it's clear for me ..


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      james 7 years ago

      neither the dogs nor cat "were" happy

      neither the dogs nor cats "were" happy

      neither the dog nor cats "were" happy?

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      firodj 7 years ago

      Thank for your explanation, it helps me to clear confusion from Google Translate's result.

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      Cesar M. Chagas 7 years ago

      Hi, I am from Brazil. May I write something like "This medicine did not control bacteria nor inhibitted virus"

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      Jackd779 7 years ago

      Hi, just a query that I don't think anybody has flagged up yet.

      Can you say "me either" (as in 'I agree')? I always thought it was "me neither" but somebody is convinced you say "me either" if you are agreeing with the person, and "me neither" if you disagree. What's the proper form?


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      Seth 7 years ago

      Everyone seems to be missing the point that neither and either present two different situations, so what's correct often depends on what your intent is.

      Neither is a situation in which the objects following are excluded:

      "Neither Bob nor Mary stole from the cookie jar" says someone other than Bob or Mary is the thief.

      Either is a situation in which one object is included at the exclusion of another:

      "Either Bob or Mary stole from the cookie jar" says that of the two people, one was the thief while the other was not.

      In a situation where multiple uses of nor are possible, saying "none" is less cumbersome because it refers to all possibilities, eliminating the need to list the objects explicitly:

      "Neither A nor B nor C" becomes "None of these".

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      paulcelso 7 years ago

      What if you are talking about three or more things. Can you say 'neither A nor B nor C?'

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      fadz 7 years ago


      could you please check my it correct or not

      "this is might correspond to the...."

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      rhalmi 7 years ago

      clear explanations. Thank you for the article!!

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      Natalia 7 years ago

      Please help me to say how it should be:

      I don't think that it could be interesting neither for you nor for me


      I don't think that it could be interesting either for you or for me???

      Thank you in advance for your help!

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      mustafe  7 years ago

      i understood that neith nor can be used as singular or plural both ways

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      Tookie 7 years ago

      I love these comments

      They are all useful for people who are using English correctly.

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      Erica 7 years ago

      Thank you Robin, I'm an English teacher for Korean students and even I have confusion of using Either or and neither nor. But after I read your article, I totally understood the usage of Either or and neither nor... Thank you..^^

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      aris 7 years ago


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      Sofia 7 years ago

      Is it correct to use either..and? For exemple, Either A and B have...?

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      JT 7 years ago

      Someone at work just told me that using "Neither" with "or" is also correct. Any comment?

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      Stefan 7 years ago

      I don't like broccoli either.

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      Fred Haendl 7 years ago

      I also don't like broccoli.

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      Muhammad ichsan 7 years ago

      What a good explanation . . .!!

    • profile image

      Mohammad  7 years ago

      hello every one here in the site can any one help me regarding the english grammar as it is my second language

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      Bryan 7 years ago

      Er... let myself down slightly there by mis-typing "quote"!

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      Bryan 7 years ago


      Mathew Waktins 2 months ago

      Every other source I have checked says that neither...nor is acceptable. I have attached a URL by a professor in the sciences. Below is another source from the head of an English department:

      This document is hillarious: A "Professor" of English who can't even spell the past tense of "teach"!

      Thank you for making my evening.

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      ridha 7 years ago


      Can you tell me the differences between these two sentences:

      I neither speak French nor Italian.

      I speak neither French nor English.

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      Deisy 7 years ago

      how to make differences between either, neither, nor and or in the sentences and how to explain to the children in elementary school.

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      marty 8 years ago

      i think you can use either, but personally i use neither.

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      Mathew Waktins 8 years ago

      Every other source I have checked says that neither...nor is acceptable. I have attached a URL by a professor in the sciences. Below is another source from the head of an English department:

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      dmaya 8 years ago

      first sentence is right.. it is assumed that 'neither' is used in the first half.

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      Paula 8 years ago

      Gracias por la explicación. Es más fácil aprender su uso... thanks.

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      Joan 8 years ago

      Is correct this sentence?:

      We select the programmes, eithr on the basis of joint activities either on that of transnational funding.

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      danial 8 years ago

      hi would you mind telling me which one is corect?

      sofi wasn't at work yesterday,nor did hi come o work today

      sofi wasn't at work yesterday,neigher did he come work today

      and why? thanks

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      Shay 8 years ago

      Hi there,

      I have a query. I'm drafting a letter and I dont know whehter to say:

      - neither us nor our client (? has/have) received the funds

      - neither we nor our client (? has/have) received the funds

      - neither our client nor us (? has/have) received the funds

      Please help!!

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      speedbird111 8 years ago

      what is the rule using "comma" in the sentence?

      Thank you for your comments.

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      Oyin 8 years ago

      Is it appropriate to use either/or when we have more than two alternatives?

      For example, is it correct to write:

      A cake may be purchased either by Mike, Moley, or Joan.

      Thanks for your help

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      Sam 8 years ago

      Thank you! You helped me a lot! This kind of explanations are useful!!!

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      Raquel 8 years ago

      And how do I use neither...nor when I'm one of the subjects?

      Neither john nor I am going to the party?

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      MW 8 years ago

      My question was similar to those posed by swordel and DLing.

      I found this answer while looking around, but I don't know how accurate it is.

      "When subjects are compounded with or or nor, the verb agrees with the subject closest to it.

      Blueberries taste good after a spicy meal.

      Either blueberries or pineapple tastes good after a spicy meal.

      Either pineapple or blueberries taste good after a spicy meal.

      Read the last two sentences aloud and listen to the way each verb agrees with the subject closest to it."


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      DLing 8 years ago

      I refer to your sentence, "Either the dancer or the acrobats are doing the tricks. (One of the subjects is plural, so "are" instead of "is" is used." How about a case where the sentence is, " Either the acrobats or the dancer __ doing the tricks", wouldn't the answer in this instance be "IS"? Kindly confirm. Thank you.

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      ros balane 8 years ago

      thanks robin, keep it up ! you're doing a truly wonderful job !

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      Don 8 years ago

      With regards with the use neither and or, I have made the observation that while discussing two objects under the same verb, use of neither and or together is quite common:

      I like neither blueberry or cranberry.

      while they would use nor with sentences containing two predicates such as:

      John neither washed his shirt nor pressed his pants.

      Just wondering if the first sentence has any grammatical grounds or is it just plain wrong. In learning English, I find that there seems to be as many exceptions as there are rules.

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      pars 8 years ago

      "either" and "neither" will always take a singular verb irrespective of the plural word followingit.

      e.g:Neither of the girls was present.

      "Neither" is the subject here and "girls" does not modify the number of the verb.

      eg: Either is fine with me.

      Neither of the two fans is working.

      Either of us has to discharge the duty.

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      Sean 8 years ago

      I believe they would be implying that the first person did not like the second person.

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      kingthorin 8 years ago

      If someone said "I don't like broccoli" and someone else commented "Me neither" wouldn't the second person be using a double negative and therefore actually be saying they do like broccoli?

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      Stephen 9 years ago

      Sorry Robin, but you were wrong in one of your posts above.

      "Neither of the girls was here" is correct because the word neither is referring to one of two girls. "Neither" in this example clearly means "one of two."

      If there were more than two girls and zero of them showed up, then "None of the girls were here" would be correct.

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      swordel 9 years ago

      What about this one:

      "Either you or I"

      - are

      - am


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      aranka 9 years ago

      that is a great explanation! thank you!

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      carmen 9 years ago

      can someone sugest writing courses or online tutoring?

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      huda2 9 years ago


      please, i need to understand why "either" is choosing here. what is the rules that was used here?

      22. "It is not very cold. I don't think we need these big jackets." "I don't think so, ___3__."anywayneithereithertoothanks

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      Gary 9 years ago

      I think it should be,

      "There was food in neither the refrigerator, nor the pot." since the present tense version would be,

      "There is food in either the refrigerator, or the pot." and that makes complete sense without sounding awkward--to me.

      "Malcolm says:2 weeks ago

      tvgc2007 & Arwa Mo'men: I think you would say either:

      "There was no food in either the refrigerator or the pot."


      "There was no food in the refrigerator or the pot."

      For emphasis, you might say, "There was no food, neither in the refrigerator nor in the pot."

      But I am not so keen on this third version."

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      Safar PA 9 years ago

      Please check below mentioned sentence is coerrect. " You didn't give me the confirmation neither by email nor by phone"

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      Malcolm 9 years ago

      tvgc2007 & Arwa Mo'men: I think you would say either:

      "There was no food in either the refrigerator or the pot."


      "There was no food in the refrigerator or the pot."

      For emphasis, you might say, "There was no food, neither in the refrigerator nor in the pot."

      But I am not so keen on this third version.

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      Arwa Mo'men 9 years ago

      I don't think that your answer was correct,(tvgc2007)

      I think it is better to say : There was no food neither in the refrigeraton nor in the pot.

      because you can't say (there is neither food) instead of (there is no food)

      I hope I helped...


    • profile image 9 years ago

      Is this correct?

      question: There was no food in the refrigerator. There was also no foofd in the pot.

      ans: There was neither food in the refrigerator nor in the pot.

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      abgaaloow 9 years ago

      thanks for this .it really helped i am 15 years old from somlia.

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      Alicia 9 years ago

      Can you also say Neither I. Or is it neither me? Or neither both?


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      Linh 9 years ago

      I don't speak English, and English actually is my 2nd language. Thank you so much for clearing this up, much much love. :)

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      allyanna 9 years ago

      please help me ms.robin. i really find it difficult to cope up in my english subject!!

      i nid your response!!thank you

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      Thiago 9 years ago

      Thanks for shedding some light on this difficult topic.

      My question is:

      Neither the boys nor the girl is/are here?

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      Pete 9 years ago

      I agree with Drake. I was actually going to post a similar question; last night at dinner, I asked the two hostesses 'Does either of you like first person shooters?" and was met with ridicule and they promptly "corrected" me to say "Do either of you like first person shooters?"

      I find this erroneous. Isn't there an implied 'one' when you use the word 'either' as in "Does either [one] of you like first person shooters?"

      Thanks for clarifying!

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      Drake 9 years ago

      Your second example is correct, "Neither of the girls were present." You are speaking of more than one girl, so you need the plural "to be" form: were. Thanks for the comment, Holly!

      I don't believe your above response is correct. The correct response would be, "Neither of the girls was present." Since girls is the object of the preposition, plurality isn't important. For instance, you wouldn't say, "One of the girls were present."

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      eva 9 years ago

      I need your help in this sentenece ¨phill didn´t play the game phill didn´t wacth the game ¨What's the correct way to say this?

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      Penguin 9 years ago

      I have heard that you can use "Either" or "Neither" in a sentence without being paired. I mean, without using "or" or "nor", but I didn't get to find any explanation about it on the web. You get always to find them paired. Would you post some info and examples by using "Either" or "Neither" alone?Thanks and congratulations for the entry.

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      Adrian 9 years ago

      OK.... thats what I thought... but I do have a follow up: where you use the example, "She said, 'I don't like broccoli' I said, 'Neither do I.'", could one also say "Nor do I" in response?

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      zeynep  10 years ago

      I used to confused about on this issue. The only thing I am still confused is verb structure. As you say, one of the plural elements would be enough for being plural verbs. What I've knew is to being a plural verbs depends on the subject/object which close to verb or preceding the verb. Do you mind helping me on this matter? It would be great if you make it clear. Thank you.

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      Gary Bazurto  10 years ago

      I just want to know why you wrote: Neither Corie nor Bob went to the play. (Corie isn't going to the play. Bob isn't going to the play.) When the sentences in brackets are in future tense. I am an English teacher from Ecuador. Thanks a lot

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      Monica 10 years ago

      What should one do if there is a list of three items to which a certain situation does not apply? Can one get around it by separating the third item in the list by commas?

      Say, for instance, "Neither the government, nor the civil cervice, nor even the prime minister, advocates this policy." ?

      Thanks for a very useful hub!


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      Wes 10 years ago

      I've always been confused about using the word "either" to describe objects surrounding another object. As an example, I'll hear something to the effect of, "My speakers are on either side of my monitor." This has always sounded silly to me, and seems incorrect according to your definition above (one or the other, but not both).

      What's the correct way to say this?

      And thanks for all the other great tips! I really enjoyed them!

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      heru 10 years ago

      thank you for article

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      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

      Hi Gabi,

      I would phrase the sentence:  This matter does not have any impact on ... or ....

      I don't think that there is any need for the words "neither" or "either".  Hope that helps!

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      Gabi 10 years ago

      ...or the following might be even better:

      This matter does neither have an impact on ...nor on...

      ...what do you think?