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Either vs. Neither

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  Marius Alza  —  Grammar Tips
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Either vs. Neither

"Either" and "neither" represent a pair of words frequently used in the English vocabulary. But these two can be used in so many different contexts that their meanings can become confusing. In addition, they are also used wrongly quite often, so everything becomes even more unclear.

So how do you correctly use "either" and "neither" and what does each signify?

Either vs. Neither

Primarily, "either" is a conjunction used to express a choice between two or more elements. In this sense, the word is usually used in the construction "either... or". We'll explain this better in the examples below. But at the same time, "either" can be used as a pronoun. It can express, again, a random choice between two or more elements, but it can also signify "both", depending on the context. In addition to these meanings, "either" can also be used in negative expressions, referring to an alternative that is also true.

If we are talking about "neither", this, just like "either", is also used in three different contexts. First, it is an adverb used in negative expressions, referring to an alternative that is also true. Then, as a pronoun, "neither" is the antonym for "either", referring to "not either" of two or more elements. Thirdly, as a conjunction, "neither" is generally used in the construction "neither...nor" and it refers to a negative fact that is true for two or more elements.

When do we use "either"?

Here are some examples so you can better understand in which cases and how you are supposed to use "either" correctly:

Example 1: I like eggs either boiled or fried. I would never eat an omelet, though. - "either" is a conjunction, expressing a choice between two different cooking styles.

Example 2: "Do you prefer green tea or black tea?" "Either will be fine, thank you!" - "either", in this context, is a pronoun referring to any of the alternatives.

Example 3: "There were beautiful posters on either margins of the wall." - also used as a pronoun, "either" refers to "both" margins of the wall.

Example 4: "I don't want to swim, and my husband doesn't either." - as an adverb, "either" is used in a negative expression, referring to a fact that is also true for somebody else.

When do we use "neither"?

Let's illustrate, in the examples below, the appropriate contexts for "neither":

Example 1: "My wife doesn't like swimming, neither do I." - as an adverb, "neither" refers to a negative fact, true for both people.

Example 2: "We were served two dishes, but neither was as tasty as we expected." - a pronoun expressing a negative fact about both the alternatives, used with the opposite sense of "either".

Example 3: "Neither I, nor my friends, enjoy your company." - "neither" can also be used as a conjunction and it refers to a negative aspect which is true for more people simultaneously.

Conclusion

"Either" and "neither" are both complex words, as they both have multiple meanings and can be used in different contexts. Yet, make sure you don't confuse them, as each carries a different signification. Simply remembering the examples above or checking them whenever you need to confirm that you are correct will be a great idea, though.

Either vs. Neither

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