Neither or either, either or neither, what exactly means what, when can I use them, and how can I know if I’m using it correctly or not? Well, to start off, I should say that although speaking correctly is the end game goal here, don’t stress over this too much. Neither and either are words than even many native English speakers confuse for one another, and don’t truly know the difference, especially when they are trying to use the English expressions such as “neither nor/ either or”. It can be really confusing. However, if you want to learn the difference, stay put because we are about to go deep into this topic to make sure you never have to wonder this again. Ready to learn?
Either and neither’s meaning and difference
As an English teacher, I get this question quite often: “what’s the difference between either and neither?”. Well, 90% of the time, neither just means “not either.” Either though, that word can be tricky.
How To Make Long Sentences In English
ADJECTIVE: When used as an adjective, either means “one of two things (or people),” and neither means the opposite: not one of two things.
- Example- You can buy either, they are very cheap. You can buy neither, they are too expensive.
PRONOUN: When used as a pronoun, either means the one or the other, and neither means not the one nor the other.
- Example- You can wear either a dress or dress pants. You may wear neither jeans or tennis shoes.
CONJUNCTION: Either is used with “or” in a conjunction, and neither is used with “nor”, and is used when giving a choice between two things, and to indicate that something is not true.
- Example- I will eat either rice or noodles for dinner tonight. I will eat neither rice nor noodles tonight.
ADVERB: When used as an adverb, either just means “in addition”, and it used after something negative.
- Example- The coffee is delicious, and it is not expensive either.
Also, informally speaking, there are phrases such as me either or me neither These mean exactly the same thing, and is said in agreement with a negative statement,
- Example- “ I don’t like seafood.” “Me either.”
Rules on when to use either or neither
Now that you’re not left googling “either or neither meaning,” and you have a better understanding of what they are, let’s go over some rules.
The English language is full of rules, and sometimes, the English language doesn’t even follow those rules. So, bare with me here because although either and neither are similar, they have different meanings.
- Neither= negative, and no options are acceptable
- EXAMPLE: I don’t eat neither fish or shrimp.
- Either= positive, and one option will be chosen
- EXAMPLE: I like either hot tea or iced coffee, but not iced tea or hot coffee.
Or vs nor: the difference
If you remember correctly, I stated that or goes with either and nor is paired with neither. Why? Well, nor is used negatively, same as neither, and or is used positively, just like either. Now, nor is not nearly as commonly used as or, but you will most likely come across it in your studies. In the meantime, I will give you some examples and either or neither nor exercises.
- Would you like cake or ice cream?
- We will have to book the flight now, or the price will go up.
- The dress is available in either pink or blue.
- The consulate will not be opened on weekends nor holidays.
- The act of murder is not acceptable, nor will it ever be.
How to use or/nor correctly
Or and nor are coordinating conjunctions with the main function of connecting two word clauses. As mentioned before, if you can just remember when to use either or neither, and that nor is negative and or is positive, then you should be able to correctly use these words in a sentence.
However, like every good ole’ English rule, there is an exception. Take the third example above into consideration. It will also be correct if I say “ The consulate will not be opened on weekends or holidays.” This is correct because when the second negative item is a noun, adjective, or adverb phrase, the word or can be used as a conjunction too! Now, when to use neither or either is often closely associated with how to properly use or/nor. So, once you have a basic understanding of either or neither nor rules, you will be confident enough to start adding these into your everyday vocabulary.
Me neither or me either rules
Overall, both me either and me neither have pretty much the same meaning. However, grammatically speaking, saying “me neither” would be correct. Let’s dig a little deeper here. A lot of people are often left wondering “is it either or neither” in this type os situation, so let me try to make it easier for you. Just like neither and nor, “Me neither” is typically used to agree with a negative statement. ‘
EXAMPLE: “I don’t smoke.” – “Me neither.”
Technically, you could still say “me either” here, but you would have to imply or state the negative form.
EXAMPLE: I don’t smoke either. → “Me either.”
Typical errors with neither nor conjunctions
Either or neither nor grammar rules are not too complicated, right? It’s fairly simple to understand and use once you learn the differences between the words. However, I would like to go over some common errors to avoid.
Since “me neither” and “me either” can pretty much be used interchangeably, some people believe that the same applies for either or and neither nor. This is incorrect. When you use “neither” in a sentence, since that word is negative, it must be followed with its negative pair: nor.
- CORRECT: Neither the teacher nor the student arrived on time.
- INCORRECT: Neither the teacher or the student arrived on time.
To sum up, don’t be afraid to use the words either and neither! They can come in handy, and are not too difficult to understand. In fact, a good way to remember when to use them is by looking at the spelling: neither has a ‘n’ in front, doesn’t it? Look at that ‘n’ and have it represent the word negative. So, neither= negative. Then, just keep in mind that if neither is negative, then either needs to be positive. This is what has helped me, personally, and I hope it will help you as well!