Using Either, Neither, Nor, and Or in English (+Examples)
Originally published 31-07-2020, updated 11-05-2021
Have you had difficulty using either/neither and or/nor? If so, don’t worry – you’re not alone: these two pairs of words can be tricky to use and can be a difficult part of
Let’s look at how to use these words in English correctly.
First of all, either and neither can be used in various ways. For example, they can be used as adverbs, determiners, pronouns or conjunctions. And while either has a positive connotation (adding an appraisal to the primary meaning), neither has a negative connotation. You will always see these words together, and in this order: either/or and neither/nor.
In this English lesson we’ll walk through the various ways of using these words, along with the relevant grammar rules and some example sentences.
What’s the difference between Either/Or and Neither/Nor?
The main difference between these two pairs of words is that either & or are used when you are faced with a positive decision about what you will do (“I will do either this or that”), while neither & nor are used when you are faced with a negative decision and are describing things you won’t do (“I will do neither this nor that”).
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How to use Either/Or and Neither/Nor [4 Uses]
As we mentioned above, there are 4 general ways that these terms are used, and we’ll go through all of them.
Use 1: Adverb
When these words function as adverbs, then both either and neither act as connecting words.
For example, see the following sentences:
- “I don’t like spinach.” “Neither do I.”
- “I don’t like mushrooms.” “No, I don’t like them either.”
Use 2: Determiner
In instances where either and neither are used as determiners (giving additional information about the subject without describing it. Unlike an adjective, they do not tell us about the properties of the object, but merely indicate whether a known or unknown object is being spoken, all or a part of it, or indicate its quantity or its absence. Determiners also point to who owns an object or point to the item itself.), they are placed before the noun.
- The house has a door at either end. (This refers to parts of the house, perhaps a front and back entrance.)
- Neither journalist could finish their articles, as there wasn’t enough time.
Use 3: Pronoun
In all instances where either and neither are used as pronouns, the sentence structure will be as follows:
After either/neither comes of + noun phrase.
When they act as pronouns, either means “one or the other,” while neither means “not one or the other.”
- Both these roads go to Rome so that you can go either way.
- Neither of my classmates is strong enough to win this competition.
Use 4: Conjunction
Often when either and neither are used as conjunctions, they are used together with the words or and nor.
Either/or – used together to offer a choice between two things.
- You can either call me at home or the office.
- Either mum or dad will come to pick you up.
Neither/nor – when they are used together, they negate both parts of the statement.
- Neither the blue one nor the red is available in size 4.
- I will neither call you nor send you a message before midday.
Do you still have doubts about how to use these phrases? Or have you finally figured it out?
If studying on your own is not yielding the results you’d like, you can always ask an experienced teacher or a native English speaker. They will be glad to help you with your questions and walk you through practical applications of
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