Either and Neither

The English words either and neither can cause some problems for native and non-native speakers of English. Sometimes you can use either one and sometimes you have to choose either one or the other, but neither one is very difficult.

Either… Or

Either... or is used to offer a choice between two possibilities:

Either Mike or Lisa will be there.

Either you leave me alone or I will call the police.

We should bring either coffee or tea.

You can either help us or go to your room.

Either can also be followed by (one) of + group of two:

Either of us could do it
Either one of us could do it

Either of you should know
Either one of you should know

Not… either… or denies both possibilities:

I don’t think either Mike or Lisa will be there.

He doesn’t speak either English or French.

Not… either is used after a negative statement.

I don’t speak French.
You don’t either.

He isn’t ready to go.
We aren’t either.

 
Neither… Nor

Neither… nor is equivalent to not… either… or.

Neither Mike nor Lisa will be there.

He speaks neither English nor French.

We brought neither coffee nor tea.

I will neither help you nor go to my room.

Neither can also be followed by (one) of + group of two:

Neither of them is ready.
Neither one of them is ready.

Neither of us has any money.
Neither one of us has any money.

Neither is used like not… either.

I don’t speak French.
Neither do I.
(informal): Me neither.

He isn’t ready to go.
Neither are we.

 
The Bottom Line

Either means one, neither means none, and not either equals neither. Or goes with either and nor goes with neither.

 
More English Difficulties

58 comments for “Either and Neither

  1. Steve
    26 March 2014 at 16:47

    Thank you for the opportunity to test convention where ‘either’ is concerned. After sending the following sentence in an email, I realized ‘either’ might not have been used correctly. After a bit of an argument, I’ve persuaded myself that it is correct.

    “We could be available at 1:00pm or 3:00pm tomorrow; 11:00am or 1:00pm Friday; if either of those times work for you and Jen."

    The controlling subtlety here is that they can pick only one time. To have written ‘any one’ would have seemed a bit dull. Further, the other folks have been avoiding the conversation for days. ‘Any’ may not be wrong, but ‘either’ feels both more definitive and less imposing at the same time.

    I’d appreciate your thoughts.

    Thank you,
    Steve

    • lkl
      26 March 2014 at 16:54

      Hi Steve,

      I moved your comment here to the relevant lesson. As you can see, “either” is reserved for a choice between two options. Your usage is jarring to me since there are four choices, it’s simply not correct. Here’s another way you could get the same point across:

      …either 1 or 3 tomorrow, or else 11 or 1 Friday, if any / if one…

      Or you could just say …if one of those times works…

      But I vote no to “either.” Sorry.

    • Noel Victor Comley
      18 December 2014 at 19:48

      In the case of “We could be available at 1:00pm or 3:00pm tomorrow; 11:00am or 1:00pm Friday; if either of those times work for you and Jen." either is correct as the reader is being asked to decide between the given dates/times.

      If the reader was being asked to: “We could be available at 1:00pm or 3:00pm tomorrow; 11:00am or 1:00pm Friday; if neither of those times work for you and Jen." it would imply that the reader was being asked to suggest another time if none of the suggested times were suitable. It may have been best, in that case, to use “none” instead of either either or neither.

      There is of course the well known “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” so nor is not always restricted to a choice of two,

  2. yousra
    4 April 2014 at 09:19

    i have a question : are these two sentences correct to use with either or:

    he is between two choices either use this or leave it

    he is not free to use either this or that choice

  3. larry
    26 April 2014 at 05:57

    Is the following correct?

    ‘No, I had no idea neither.’

    A friend of mine is convinced it’s correct but it just sounds wrong to me.

    • lkl
      26 April 2014 at 06:40

      You’re right and your friend is wrong. It’s not correct, because it’s a double negative. The correct ways to say that are

      No, I had no idea either.
      Neither did I.
      Me neither.

  4. Katy M
    28 April 2014 at 17:09

    Often when replying to a statement such as ‘I don’t like Maths’ my friends say
    ‘Me either’

    I was just wondering whether this was correct as it has always seemed wrong to me as they are expressing a negative opinion.

    • lkl
      29 April 2014 at 19:14

      You’re right, they are wrong. There is no negation in “me either” – you have to say “me neither.”

  5. Dougie
    29 April 2014 at 22:29

    “Neither of them is ready.”

    Shouldn’t it be neither of them *are ready?

    Them is plural, so the verb that succeeds it should be, too. This is my understanding, anyway…

    • lkl
      30 April 2014 at 05:39

      No, because the subject is not “them.” If it helps, say it like this: “Neither one of them is ready” – there you can see that the subject “one” is definitely singular. 🙂

  6. HASSAN
    30 April 2014 at 17:24

    Dear Ma’am is it correct (a) ” Neither me nor he is perfect at grammar” (b) He doesn’t care and I don’t care either .(c) (either one of you will be here or will be punished . (d) neither of them are not happy …. Please correct if I am wrong.

    • lkl
      1 May 2014 at 06:20

      (a) Neither me nor he is perfect at grammar
      Neither I nor he is perfect at grammar.

      (b) He doesn’t care and I don’t care either
      Correct. Or you could say, “He doesn’t care and neither do I.”

      (c) either one of you will be here or will be punished
      Not sure what you mean here.

      (d) neither of them are not happy
      “Neither of them is not happy” would mean that they are both happy. Is that what you’re trying to say?

  7. Gionata
    23 May 2014 at 14:30

    Hello I am foreign person I’d like to know if this conversation is correct:

    me: Mario Balotelli shouldn’t have been summoned into the italian national team media is making too much of a fuss about him being racially abused.

    unknown: so not being summoned would have been the solution?

    me: neither

    • lkl
      23 May 2014 at 16:32

      Hello, the first sentence doesn’t make sense, I can’t understand what you are trying to say.

      Also, you cannot use “neither” by itself. I can’t tell you what the last line should be until I understand the first.

  8. Helen
    12 June 2014 at 04:20

    Dear Madam,

    Please could you confirm whether the following is correct? Many thanks!

    “He did not request this information, and nobody else in our firm did either”.

    • lkl
      12 June 2014 at 06:04

      Yes, it’s correct. Another way to say it is “and neither did anybody else in our firm.”

  9. cinta
    30 June 2014 at 08:13

    excuse me.I need the help. It’s important. . I want to ask, “Anglo-Saxon society in England was neither primitive nor uncultured” is it means, “Anglo-Saxon society in England was advanced and cultured.” ? thank you 🙂

    • lkl
      5 July 2014 at 11:49

      Kind of. Saying that a society is not primitive is not quite the same thing as saying that it is advanced. It might be somewhere in between.

  10. ENISE
    8 July 2014 at 12:24

    tomorrow i will not support you either

  11. Daniel
    8 July 2014 at 14:50

    Hello, could you help me with this please?

    I read this sentence on a webiste …”Neither supermarket stocks lentils, or wholewheat pasta.”

    Is it fine, or should it be,,,NOR wholewheat pasta?

    Thank you!
    Dan

  12. ENISE
    11 July 2014 at 16:44

    Want to know if : no mention mean ” you welcome “

    • lkl
      12 July 2014 at 05:27

      No, it doesn’t. “Don’t mention it” means “you’re welcome.”

  13. Daniel
    11 July 2014 at 19:53

    Thanks for your response , i have another doubt, are these sentences okay?

    (I was talking about a songwriter/producer and some particular songs)

    He hasn’t either written or produced them

    He has neither written nor produced them

    Thanks Again!!

    • lkl
      12 July 2014 at 05:30

      >>He hasn’t either written or produced them

      No, that sounds weird. “He hasn’t written or produced them.”

      >>He has neither written nor produced them

      Perfect.

  14. PIYUSH
    6 August 2014 at 15:29

    Is this sentence correct ?
    I have read neither of these books
    or
    I have gone to neither of these places

    • lkl
      8 August 2014 at 16:49

      I suppose they are technically correct, but they sound odd. It’s much more natural to say “I haven’t read either of these books” and “I haven’t gone to either of these places.

  15. Daniel
    11 August 2014 at 14:55

    Hello!! an article says this:

    “There have been no elevations in intraocular pressure neither refractive
    changes.”

    is that okay?

    I would have written….”there have been neither elevations in intraocular pressure nor refractive changes” (or there have not been either elevations intraocular pressure or refractive chances)

    Honestly the use of neither and either is so confusing :S

    thanks a LOT! i really appreciate your help