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

More English Lessons
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5 comments for “Either and Neither

  1. Steve
    26 March 2014 at 4:47 pm

    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 4:54 pm

      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.

      • Steve
        26 March 2014 at 5:06 pm

        That was quick. Thanks.

  2. yousra
    4 April 2014 at 9:19 am

    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

    • lkl
      5 April 2014 at 6:41 am

      Yes, those are both correct.

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