Either vs. Neither

Have you ever wondered whether either or neither is the right word to use when you’re writing or speaking? Either and neither are similar words, but they have separate meanings. Let’s review either vs. neither and consider a few examples.

When to Use Either

The word either separates two choices, outcomes, or possibilities: We could have either pizza or spaghetti for dinner.

You can usually think of either as meaning “one of” or “this or that.” In some contexts, it can mean “both”: If you head south, there are coffee shops on either side of the street.

When to Use Neither

The word neither refers negatively to a pair of choices: I went to the hardware store to find nails. They had two sizes, but neither will work for my roof.

You can also use neither to mean “not one of two things.” For example, neither of my parents likes seafood is a shorter way of saying my mother does not like seafood, and my father also does not like seafood.

You can think of neither as a shortened version of “not either,” meaning “no” to both of two choices.

Either vs. Neither: Avoiding Confusion

The best way to differentiate either and neither is to remember that one is positive and the other is negative. That’s why either goes with or and neither goes with nor.

In daily usage, either often suggests a dual choice, such as pizza vs. spaghetti. It also means “one or the other.”

The negative neither conveys a dismissal of both choices: If you were having neither pizza nor spaghetti, you would be saying no to both. Neither also means “not either.”

Pop Quiz

Using what you’ve learned from this article, determine whether either or neither is the best usage in each sentence.

  1. The salesperson said I could choose [either/neither] a blue sofa or a red sofa.
  2. My friend has to choose between [either/neither] going to the concert or having dinner with his brother.
  3. It’s too bad that [either/neither] one of us won the lottery last week.
  4. I was disappointed that [either/neither] of my favorite teams won last week.
  5. We can take a cab or a bus but heavy traffic means we will be late [either/neither] way.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

  1. The salesperson said I could choose either a blue sofa or a red sofa.
  2. My friend has to choose between either going to the concert or having dinner with his brother.
  3. It’s too bad that neither one of us won the lottery last week.
  4. I was disappointed that neither of my favorite teams won last week.
  5. We can take a cab or a bus, but heavy traffic means we will be late either way.

 

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