When To Use the Words “Either” or “Neither”
- Either can be used as a pronoun or determiner that means “one or the other,” as part of a correlative conjunction to indicate choices, or as an adverb that means “moreover” or that agrees with a negative statement.
- Neither is used negatively, and can also function as a pronoun, determiner, conjunction, or adverb. It usually means “not either.”
- ○ Either of the dresses will look good on you. (Both dresses will look good.)
- ○ Neither of the dresses will look good on you. (None of the dresses will look good.)
“Either” vs. “Neither”
Either and neither. These two words can baffle even the most proficient English speakers. Why? Because they can function as multiple parts of speech and the one letter that differentiates them —“n”—completely alters their meanings and can therefore change your sentence entirely. That very letter, though, can help you remember how to use either and neither correctly. Below, we’ll go over their different uses, meanings, and provide examples.
When To Use “Either” or “Neither”
Either and neither can function as pronouns, determiners, adverbs, or conjunctions.
As Pronouns and Determiners:
When used as a pronoun or determiner, either means “one or the other.”
There are two applications you can fill out—either is acceptable. (Pronoun)
You can take either road, and you’ll end up in my neighborhood. (Determiner)
Neither, on the other hand, means “not one and not the other.”
You filled out two applications, but unfortunately, neither was approved. (Pronoun)
Take neither road because you’ll end up lost. (Determiner)
Be careful not to use a double negative when using neither.
Don’t take neither of those roads because you’ll end up lost.
The “n” in neither can help you remember that it means not either.
As Correlative Conjunctions:
Both either and neither can be part of correlative conjunctions. Either gets paired with or and shows that what follows is the first of two or more choices.
We can go to either New York or Miami. Take your pick.
When neither gets paired with nor, it means “none of the two (or more)” or “not either.”
I don’t trust her to be our supervisor. She is neither responsible nor friendly.
Please note: do not use commas in between either/or or neither/nor.
You can have either a chocolate cake, or a vanilla cake.
Zachary is neither mean, nor aggressive.
When used as an adverb, either can mean “moreover” and is used to add information to a statement.
The house was beautiful, and it wasn’t too big either.
Either can also be used as an adverb to relay agreement, similarity, or a link to a negative statement just made.
He wasn’t invited to the party and I wasn’t either.
This is mainly where the confusion between either and neither arises, as neither can also be used to express an additional negative statement.
He wasn’t invited to the party and neither was I.
Remember, avoid making the error of using neither in a double negative. The following sentence is incorrect:
He wasn’t invited to the party and I wasn’t neither.
“Me Either” or “Me Neither?”
If a person is expressing a positive statement, you would show agreement by saying something like “me too.”
I love pizza.
But how do you agree with a negative statement—me either or me neither? Well, if you want to be as grammatically correct as possible, you would use neither of these phrases. Instead, you would say something like:
But I do not like anchovies on my pizza.
Neither do I!
I don’t either.
However, it is common to hear me either and me neither in casual speech. So if you had to choose one, go with me either. If you were to use me neither to agree with a negative statement, it might turn into the pesky double negative we’ve been warning you about.
I don’t like pineapples on my pizza.
Me neither. = I don’t like pineapples on my pizza neither.
I don’t like pineapples on my pizza.
Me either. = I don’t like pineapples on my pizza either.
Using “Either” and “Neither” Correctly
There’s a lot to absorb when it comes to using either and neither. The main thing you should remember is that:
- Either tends to mean “one or the other.”
- Neither is used negatively to mean none.
- When used as a conjunction, either gets paired with or and neither with nor.
Here’s another tip that’ll help you use either and neither correctly: use LanguageTool as your free spelling and grammar checker. This intelligent text editor can ensure proper word usage and spelling, and can even help rephrase your sentences to suit your desired style and tone. Give it a try today.