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Either vs. Neither

This Grammar.com article is about Either vs. Neither — enjoy your reading!

Despite being just a single letter apart from each other, the two words either vs. neither have completely opposite meanings. This underscores just how important it is to use the correct word, since failing to do so could drastically change the meaning of a sentence.

In this post, I want to go over the uses of these two words. I will go over their functions, their definitions, and origin. After reading this post, you shouldn’t ever confuse neither vs. either again.

Origin:

The word either originated from Old English ǣgther, contracted form of ǣg(e)hwæther, of Germanic origin; ultimately related to aye and whether. The word neither originated from Middle English: alteration (by association with either) of Old English nawther, contraction of nāhwæther (from nā ‘no’ + hwæther ‘whether’).

Either as conjunction:

Either is used as a conjunction in English language where it joins two sentences together by being used before the first of two (or occasionally more) given alternatives (the other being introduced by ‘or’).

Either I accompany you to your room or I wait here.

Either is also used to indicate a similarity or link with a statement just made.

You don't like him, do you? I don't either.

Either as pronoun:

Either is also used as a pronoun to indicate one or the other of two people or things.

There were no children of either marriage.

Neither as pronoun:

Neither is used as a pronoun which means not the one nor the other of two people or things; not either.

Neither side of the brain is dominant over the other.

Neither as adverb:

Neither is sometimes used as an adverb which means used before the first of two (or occasionally more) alternatives (the others being introduced by ‘nor’) to indicate that they are each untrue or each does not happen.

I am neither a liberal nor a conservative.

It is also used to introduce a further negative statement.

He didn't remember, and neither did I.

Examples:

Either Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is polling, or some rival candidate considers him the man to beat in the 2018 race for governor. (The Atlantic Journal Constitution)

Triple talaq is neither constitutional nor a Quranic form of divorce (The Hindustan Times)

Either or neither:

Both of these words have multiple functions within a sentence, but knowing when to use either or neither is very important since they have near opposite meanings. Either means one or the other. Neither means not one or the other. A great way to remember the difference between these two words has to do with the first letter of the word neither. Neither creates a negation and starts with the letter “N.” Neither means not one of the given options. If you can remember this trick, you’ll be all set.


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"Either vs. Neither." Grammar.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 25 Nov. 2017. <http://www.grammar.com/either_vs._neither>.

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