English Grammar Guide

Either...or, Neither...nor, Both...and

Neither ........... nor ........

The form 'Neither..nor' can be used when we want to say 'Not this .... and not that...'  about two things (actions, adjectives or nouns). The form can be used with verbs, adjectives and nouns.

Form and rules:

  • 'Neither' + noun/verb/adjective........'nor' + noun/verb/adjective

  • 'Neither' is used with 'nor'. We cannot say 'neither this or that'.

Examples:

  • She speaks neither English nor French.

  • She is neither intelligent nor kind.

  • Paolo is neither short, nor fat. Paolo is tall, slim and Italian. He's also Italian, not French!

  • I want neither alcohol nor cigars for my birthday.

Neither ....... with verbs

'Neither'  can be used (without 'nor') to speak about actions that did not happen.
For example:

  • (Paolo did not lock the office or switch off the photocopier yesterday.)
    Speaker A:  Why are you angry?
    Speaker B:  Paolo didn't lock the office yesterday, neither did he switch off the photocopier.

  • (Susan forgot to buy sugar and forgot to buy apples)
    Speaker A:  Has Susan been to the shops today?
    Speaker B:  Yes, but she hasn't bought any sugar, neither has she bought any apples.

The meaning in both examples is He/She did not do this.....and he/she also did not do that...

Neither as a pronoun / determiner
When it is used as a pronoun, 'Neither' is often followed by 'of' plus a noun phrase or pronoun.

  • Neither of my two brothers are rich.

  • Neither of the children went to school today. They were both unwell.

As a determiner, 'neither' is used in the same way..

  • Neither book is suitable.

  • Neither girl replied.

Neither ...... to show agreement or similarity
'Neither' can be used to show agreement or similarity with a negative statement.

  • Speaker A:  'I don't like him'
    Speaker B:  'Neither do I'

  • Speaker A:  'He's not Spanish'
    Speaker B:  'Neither is John'

  • Speaker A:  'I can't sleep'
    Speaker B:  'Neither can I'

Either .......... or ...............

'Either..or' is used to speak about a choice between two things (actions, adjectives or nouns) and gives the meaning 'one or the other, this or that, he or she, etc.'

  • 'he must be either silly or very lazy'

  • You can have either tea or coffee.

  • They can either phone me or send me a fax.

'Either' can be used at the start of a sentence. In this case, the verb conjugation depends on the subject (singular or plural) closest to the conjugated verb.

  • Either Peter or his children broke the vase.
    (The subject nearest the verb – children – is plural)

  • Either Peter or Paul is going to be the next manager.
    (The subject nearest the verb – Paul – is singular)

Note:  If 'either' is used with a negative verb, its meaning is the same as 'neither'.  'Either' is usually placed at the end of the sentence in these cases:

  • I can't do it.

  • I can't do it either.

  • I didn't go there either  = Neither did I go there.

Both ........... and .......

'Both ..... and ...' is used to combine two things (actions, adjectives or nouns) and gives the meaning 'This thing and that thing, him and her, etc'. Things connected by 'both … and' take the a plural verb conjugation.

  • Both my brother and I attended universities on the East Coast.

  • Both Jane and her sisters play golf.

  • By the end of the conference I was both bored and demotivated.

  • Susan is a lucky girl; she is both intelligent and beautiful.

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