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Resources -> Common Mistakes in English -> Either Neither

Either Neither

It is important to grasp the meanings and difference between ‘either’ and ‘neither’ so that we don’t get confused between the two. Both words can be used as pronoun, conjunction and adjective; however, the use of ‘either’ is considered positive, while the use of ‘neither’ is considered negative.

As adjective:

‘Either’ indicates one or the other, or both. For example:

You may use either hand for the purpose. = You may use your right or left hand for the purpose.

There were tall houses on either side of the river. = There were tall houses on both sides of the river.

‘Neither’ indicates not one or the other; none of the two. For example;

Neither twin was invited to the wedding. = None of the twins was invited to the wedding.

As pronoun:

‘Either’ indicates one or the other. For example:

Both buses are headed in that direction, you can get on either. = Both buses are headed in that direction, you can get on one or the other.

‘Neither’ indicates not one or the other. For example:

Both pups were pure-breed, but neither displayed the characteristic traits of its breed. = Both pups were pure-breed, but not one or the other displayed the characteristic traits of its breed.

As conjunction:

‘Either’ is used with ‘or’ to imply a choice of alternatives. For example:

You can either play on the computer or watch TV. = You can do one of two things: play on the computer or watch TV.

‘Neither’ is used with ‘nor’ to negate both parts of a statement. For example:

I can neither play on the computer nor watch TV. = I cannot play on the computer or watch TV.

‘Either’ is also used as an adverb, to mean ‘also’, following negative expressions. For example:

If you don’t go, I won’t go either. = If you stay, I will stay also.

‘Neither’, on the other hand, is not used as an adverb.