Neither vs. Both

It is actually very important to know the difference between these two words. We will learn all about them in this lesson.

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

What Are Their Main Differences?

'Neither' and 'both' can be different in many cases. One is their meaning. As you know 'neither' means none of the two unlike 'both' which refers to two out of the two. Another field that makes them different is using the suitable verb after them which we will discuss in detail in this article.


Verbs That Follow 'Neither' and 'Both'

  • 'Neither':

refers to singular nouns so, it is used only with singular verbs.

Neither tradition of marriage is meaningful in our country.

Neither cat is clean.

  • 'Both':

refers to two nouns at the same time so, it is used with plural verbs.

Both cats are clean.

Both rural areas were densely populated.

The Grammatical Rules of Using Plural or Singular Nouns

  • 'Neither':

is used with a singular noun after 'neither'. In case we want to use a plural noun or a noun that is followed by determiners we should use 'neither of'. Remember, when the noun after 'neither of' is plural you can either use singular or plural verbs, however, using a singular verb is more formal.

Neither student is smart enough to answer the question.

Neither of the students listens to the teacher.

  • 'Both':

We use a plural noun after 'both' or 'both of' however, we use pronouns only after 'both of'.

Both of them were crying.

Both of the dogs were having fun.

Both dogs were having fun.

'Neither' as an Alternative

  • 'Neither':

conveys a negative meaning, which makes it a good alternative for 'both' in negative statements. Although it has a similar meaning to 'both', it can also be different in meaning. So, be careful with its meaning.

Neither topic was to eliminate hunger in this world. (Not either of them.)

Neither is beautiful. (Not either of them.)

  • 'Both':

conveys an affirmative meaning. And it is used in affirmative sentences.

I am going to assemble a model of both spacecraft.

In this example, the noun after both is plural the plural form of 'spacecraft' is also 'spacecraft'.

Both are beautiful.

Grammatical Functions

  • 'Neither':
  1. Determiner
  2. Pronoun
  3. Adverb
  4. Conjunction

'Neither' is used before a singular countable noun to define them as a determiner. As a pronoun, it is used alone with no nouns after it and it comes directly before the verb. As an adverb, it is used to agree on a negative statement. 'Neither' as a conjunction is usually followed by nor and is used to connect two clauses.

Neither employee went in strike for more wages. → determiner

Neither probed the man's mind to see if he was innocent. → pronoun

I didn't pay for the rent neither did my husband. → adverb

Neither the lawyer nor the judge believed him to be innocent. → conjunction

The Verb with 'Neither' and 'Nor'

Whenever 'neither' is used in combination with 'nor' the verb usually agrees with the second noun ( the noun after 'nor'). Look at the examples to be more clarified:

Neither the boss nor the employees are going out for lunch.

Neither her mom nor her __sister believes her words.

  • 'Both':
  1. Pronoun
  2. Determiner

is mostly used as a pronoun and a determiner. As a determiner, it is used before plural countable nouns or in some cases before singular nouns and as you know, it is considered a pronoun that can be used immediately before verbs.

Both boys were playing with their bikes. → determiner

I didn't see the pens, both were hidden under the desk. → pronoun

'Both' with Singular Nouns

Sometimes, a singular noun is used after 'both' but you must link the noun to another singular noun by using the linking word 'and'.

Both the cat and the dog are cute animals.

Both my friend and my mom are waiting for the bus.


What They Refer to

Both 'neither' and 'both' refer to two options. When using 'neither' we mean none of them or not even one of them. By using 'both' we mean two out of the two.

  • 'Neither' means not one not the other.
  • 'Both' means two out of two options.

Neither baby seems too heavy.

Both teachers were talking on the same subjects.

Verbs That Are Used with 'Neither' and 'Both'

'Neither' and 'both' are used with affirmative verbs. However, neither imply a negative meaning as it is a negative marker. While 'both' implies a positive meaning.

Neither of the houses is big enough for three of us. (Implies a negative meaning)

Both houses are big enough for three of us. (Implies an affirmative meaning)


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