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Either / Neither - Distributives

The words "either" and "neither" can be used in a few different ways. They can also be different parts of speech. Sometimes, they are adjectives. Sometimes, they are adverbs or pronouns. And other times they are conjunctions.

It is not important to know what part of speech they are being used as. We just need to know what they mean and how they are used.

We will go over the different ways to use each word and give many examples so you can become familiar with these two important words.

Either

Many times the word "either" can mean one or the other. It is kind of like "Option A is okay and option B is okay too".

1. When "either" is used as an adjective it can mean one or the other of two. In these cases, we use either before a noun. We use "either + singular noun". Singular means one.
  • There are two chairs. You can sit in either chair.
  • There are only two pieces of pie. You can have either one and I will have the other.
  • He can take either car. I will take the one he doesn't take.
Sometimes, when "either" is used as an adjective it can mean both of two.
  • There are cafes on either side of the river.(=There are cafes on both sides of the river. This side has a café and that side has a café.)
2. We can use "either" as a pronoun. It means one or the other. It replaces the two subjects. "Either" is followed by the be verb "is" and for action verbs add "-s".
  • There are two pieces of cake. You can have either.
    (=You can have this piece or you can have that piece.)

  • We can take a bus or a plane. Either is okay.
    (=Both a bus and a plane are okay.)

  • Cats and dogs are both hard to take care of. So, I don't have either.
    (=I don't have a cat or a dog.)
3. "Either" is commonly used as a conjunction. It is used to emphasize options or choices. It is not necessary. It just emphasizes.
  • We can eat either pizza or chicken.
    (=We can eat pizza or chicken.)
In these sentences, we use it with "or".

...either...or...

We can use "either" between two nouns.
  • I want to go to either France or Germany.
  • She will take either her mother or her sister to the musical.
  • We will eat either steak or chicken at the restaurant.
We can use "either" between two verbs or verb phrases.
  • We can either go or stay.
  • They can either watch a movie or go dancing.
  • We will either drink tea or have some dessert.
We can also use "either" with two clauses or sentences. Many times, the sentence starts with "either" or it follows a verb like "think", "believe", or "feel".
  • Either he will get a promotion or he will quit.
  • I am thinking about either buying a car or putting a down payment on a new house.
  • Either she went to her mother's house or she is with her boyfriend right now.
  • I think the government will either change the law or people will continue protesting.
If the subject and verb or modal are the same, then we can omit it.
  • Either he will get a promotion or he will quit.
    (=Either he will get a promotion or quit.)
We do not need to repeat "he will" two times.

4. "Either" as an adverb is a little different. When "either" is used as an adverb, it means the same as "too" or "also". We use this when we are responding to another person.

We only use it with negative sentences.

A) I don't like pizza.
B) I don't like pizza either.

A) She didn't come.
B) He didn't come either.

A) Plan A didn't work.
B) Plan B didn't work either.

We can also make short sentences with "object pronoun + either".

A) I don't like cheese.
B) Me either.

A) He won't eat vegetables.
B) Her either.

Neither

"Neither" is the opposite of "either". It means not either or not the one or the other (both are no).

Just like the word "either" we can use it as multiple parts of speech.

1. We can use it before a noun as an adjective. It makes the sentence negative.
  • Neither story is true.
    (=Story A is not true and Story B is not true.)

  • There are two dishes to eat. I will have neither one.
    (=I will not have either dish.)
2. We can use "neither" as a pronoun. It replaces the two subjects. "Neither" is followed by the be verb "is" and for action verbs add "-s".
  • The bread and the salad are bad. Neither is good.
  • The computer is broken and the TV is broken. Neither works.
  • I could have bought a cat or dog, but I bought neither.
3. We can use "neither" as a conjunction. It means not either. We use it with the word "nor" instead of "or".

neither...nor

We can use "neither" between two nouns.
  • Neither Bill nor Jon came to the party.
  • We will go neither to France nor Germany.
  • Neither playing with your phone nor talking to your friends is acceptable in class.
We can use "neither" between two verbs or verb phrases.
  • I will neither say I am sorry nor ask for forgiveness.
  • She neither talked nor smiled at the party.
  • They neither act happy nor act sad.
We can use "neither" between two clauses. The word order is a little different than normal sentences. Please pay attention to the word order. We use question word order in these sentences.
  • Neither will I say I am sorry nor will I ask for forgiveness.
  • Neither will she attend school nor will she get a job.
  • Neither is he a good friend nor is he a good father.
4. "Neither" can also be used as a negative form of "too" or "also". We only use it in short sentences and it is always the first word of the sentence.
  • She doesn't want it. Neither do I.
  • He doesn't have a dog. Neither does she.
  • Nick is not a doctor. Neither am I.
  • Sally is not nice. Neither is Bob.
Note: Notice the order of the words after "neither".

Compare the sentences.

A) I don't like pizza.
B) I don't like it either. = Me either. = Neither do I.

A) She is not tall.
B) He is not tall either. = Him either = Neither is he.

A) They don't know anybody here.
B) I don't know anybody either. = Me either. = Neither do I.

These two words can be difficult for English learners to understand. It takes time to get a full understanding of them. Read many example sentences and try making a lot of your own sentences because if you want to speak English fluently, then you must understand and use this English grammar point.

Practice speaking English and improve your English grammar by finishing the sentences below and then practice making your own sentences

I don't like either _______________ or _______________.
Today I will either _______________ or _______________.
If you want to be successful you can either _______________ or _______________.
If you want to get a job then you should either _______________ or _______________.
I have neither _______________ nor _______________.
I like neither _______________ nor _______________.
Neither _______________ nor _______________ is a good way to learn English.

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