"Either" vs. "Neither" in the English Grammar

Either vs. Neither

Both of them can act as determiners, pronouns, adverbs, or conjunctions. In this lesson, we will learn their similarities and differences.

"Either" vs. "Neither" in the English Grammar

What Are Their Main Differences?

'Either' and 'neither' are different when it comes to their meanings. Although they can have different grammatical functions, they may have some similarities too.

Differences

What Either and Neither Mean in a Sentence

  • 'Either':

has different grammatical functions, so it is natural for it to have different meanings. But technically it means one of the two. Generally, either is defined as 'both' or 'one.'

Either his grandson has founded their own company.

Either is going to be her favorite, she loves chocolate chips, whether coconut or mint flavor.

  • 'Neither':

has different grammatical functions as well, so it has different meanings like 'either' does. It means none of the two. In general, 'neither' is defined as 'none' or 'not either.'

Neither of its eggs was hatching out.

Neither of their houses was collapsed by the earthquake.

Neither and Either as Determiners

  • 'Neither':

is used as a determiner before a singular countable noun with an affirmative verb to refer to something which agrees with both options being mentioned. 'Neither' is a negative marker and it can make a sentence negative on its own, therefore it does not need a negative verb.

Neither car is expensive.

Neither sister is happily married.

  • 'Either':

is used as a determiner before a singular countable noun with a negative or affirmative verb, to talk about two choices. In this case, 'either' is distributive.

He doesn’t like either girl.

Either manager is facing a major problem.

What Are Distributives?

'Distributives' are determiners that are used to indicate how something is shared out or divided.
The distributives are 'each', 'every', 'either', and 'neither'. They are used with a singular noun and as a result, they require a singular verb.

Neither and Either as Pronouns

  • 'Neither':

is used as a pronoun with an affirmative verb to mean not one and not the other. It is good to know that whenever we are using 'neither' as a pronoun no noun follows it, so it is directly followed by a verb.

Neither was filled with horror.

There were two of them, but neither knew the address.

  • 'Either':

is used as a pronoun with both negative and affirmative verbs to mean a choice of one or the other. As you know, it is not followed by a noun. In this function, 'either' is used to refer to people, things, or situations that are both possible, so as a result, it does not matter which.

Either is judged harshly in this court. Whether the innocent or the guilty.

"Which one, the long one or the short one?" "Either is fine."

Neither and Either as Adverbs

  • 'Neither':

He didn't like chips, neither did I.

is combined with a positive/affirmative verb and it comes before an auxiliary to mean 'too.' The structure is [neither + auxiliary verb + subject]. Sometimes there is a tendency to use plural verbs because of the nouns that were mentioned earlier, but using a singular verb with it is more common.

He didn't like the pizza, neither did I.

Neither as an Adverb with Affirmative Verbs

To agree with verbs such as hate, dislike, etc, we are not allowed to use the term 'neither'. Because, although they imply a negative meaning, they are still formed as a positive verb.

"He hates sushi." "So do I." (Not "Neither do I.")

  • 'Either':

is combined with a negative verb and comes last in the sentence and it means 'too.' The structure is [subject + auxiliary verb + either]. Remember using a singular verb is more common even if we are talking about a plural noun. In this case, you put 'either' at the end of the second statement to emphasize that there is a connection between the two clauses which is correct for both.

Kelvin wasn't helping, I wasn't either.

Sara didn't like the pizza, I didn't either.

Their Position as an Adverb

As you might have noticed in the examples, 'either' comes last to mean 'too' and 'neither' comes first to mean 'too.'

"I don't like the smell of this room. It smells like socks." "Neither do I."

"I don't think this is a good idea." "I don't either."

'Me neither' is an expression that means exactly the same as 'nor do I' and 'neither do I'. The difference relies on the situation you are talking about. Some believe that it is a matter of region, and based on where you are living 'me neither' would sound either formal or informal, for example they say 'me neither' is used in UK and Australia a lot. However, some agree that using 'me neither' is technically wrong.

I didn't go to her birthday party. "Me neither"; Neither did I"; "Nor did I".

Me Neither, Neither Do I, or Nor Do I?

"I don't like worms." "Me neither"(informal), "Neither do I," "Nor do I." (formal)

Me Either or I don't Either?

'Me either' is considered informal as well as 'me neither', since 'I don't either' is considered formal. But are 'me either' and 'I don't either' the same? Here is the thing, 'me either' is used to confirm a positive sentence and 'I don't either' is used to confirm a negative sentence.

"I hate Suzy." "Me either" (Not I don't either.)

"I do not drink wine." "I don't either" (Not me either.)

Neither and Either as Conjunctions

  • 'Neither':

can be used as a conjunction, and as conjunctions do it connects two clauses that both, are not true or will not happen. The thing in this function is that 'neither' is followed by 'nor' to give two options. 'Neither' is used before the first item and other items would follow 'nor' instead.

Neither my husband nor my son does their own laundry.

He neither won the game nor broke his own record.

  • 'Either':

can be used as a conjunction used to connect two clauses. It is important to know that 'either' is followed by the term 'or' in this case. The point is to use 'either' before the first option and others should follow 'or.' Remember in this function, 'either' can refer to individuals or both the alternatives.

His girlfriend could either call him back or at least go online to respond to the message.

Either Porsche or BMW will worth the price.

Here are the differences in the table:

determiner pronoun adverb conjunction
either /iːðər/ Used to mean a choice of one or the other followed by a singular noun Used to mean a choice of one or the other At the end of the sentence/With a negative verb Combines with or
neither/niːðər/ Used to mean not one and not the other followed by a singular noun Used to mean not one and not the other At the beginning of a sentence/with a positive verb Combines with nor

Similarities

Using Singular or Plural Verbs

In standard English, 'neither' and 'either' are both followed by singular verbs; however, we can use them with plural verbs in spoken English. So there is always a tendency to use them with plural verbs, but it is not that common

Neither is taking the advice, so they are going to fight for good.

Either child is going crazy over the ball. (Not "Either child were going crazy over a ball.")

Grammatical Functions

  • 'Neither' and 'either' can be:
  1. determiners
  2. pronouns
  3. adverbs
  4. conjunctions

Neither and Either with Plural Countable Nouns

We use 'neither of' and 'either of' when it is followed by pronouns and plural countable nouns which have determiners (my, his, the, these, those) before them. To be more clear it is said neither of and either of are used before pronouns and noun phrases.

Neither of my friends knew about my boyfriend.

Neither of them is delicious.

Either of the shirts looks nice on you.

Either of them can be a smart choice.

Pronunciation

'Either' can be pronounced /ˈʌɪðə,ˈiːðə/.
'Neither' can be pronounced /ˈnʌɪðə,ˈniːðə/. Keep in mind that the pronunciation with /i/ is more common in spoken everyday American English.

How They Can Be The Same in Their Meanings

We can use 'neither' and 'either' when we want to add another negative fact or idea to a conversation. 'Neither' and 'either' both can be used as a negative form of 'too.'

"She doesn't cook for tonight." "Neither does the chef." or "The chef doesn't either."

My sister is not married. Neither am I.

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