It's easy to mix up either and neither. They both refer to making a choice, but the outcome is different depending on the word you use. This simple guide can help you decide between either and neither, so you choose the right word every time.
The definition of neither is "not either." When presented as a choice between two things, either and neither mean:
- either - one of the two (You can choose either of these candies.)
- neither - none of the two (You can choose neither of these candies.)
You can also separate the two choices with either/or or neither/nor. For example:
- You can choose either chocolate or gummy worms.
- You can choose neither chocolate nor gummy worms.
In the example using either, you get at least one kind of candy. But in the example using neither, you get nothing. That’s why the word either has a positive connotation and the word neither has a negative connotation.
The word either can function as four different parts of speech (adjective, pronoun, adverb, and conjunction). Explore the meanings and usage of each part of speech with sample sentences that demonstrate the correct usage.
When you use either as an adjective, it means "both of two things" or "one or the other of two things." For example:
- There are bedrooms on either side of the apartment.
- You can have either chocolate or vanilla ice cream.
When either functions as a pronoun, it refers to one or the other of two things. The pronoun form takes the place of a noun instead of describing or modifying a noun.
- Either will work.
- Does either know how to write in calligraphy?
The adverb form of either means "also not." It is the last word at the end of a negative statement or assertion, placed there for emphasis. You can separate it from the rest of the sentence with a comma, but it works without a comma as well.
- That movie is not educational or entertaining, either.
- That recipe is not tasty or nutritious either.
When the word either functions as a conjunction, it connects two or more options with the word or. For example:
- The combo comes with either French fries, tater tots or onion rings.
- I can either continue taking dance classes or get a part-time job.
Like either, you can use the word neither different ways in a sentence. Check out several examples of neither as an adjective, a pronoun, an adverb, and a conjunction.
The adjective form of neither means "not either." It describes a noun who is not participating in a choice.
- Neither of us enjoyed the music.
- Neither Stephanie nor Karen attended the party.
Neither as a pronoun means "not either or none." It has the same meaning as its adjective form but substitutes a noun.
- Neither is invited to the party.
- Neither can sing.
When neither is used as an adverb, it too means "also not." This form of neither appears within a sentence rather than at the end.
- I am not allowed to go out with friends while on restriction; neither am I allowed to invite friends to my house.
- I am not permitted to enter our parents' room without knocking, so neither are you.
When used as a conjunction, neither means "also not." It connects with the word nor to indicate that none of the choices are an option.
- I can neither loan you money nor give you money.
- Johnny can neither talk to you on the phone nor come out to play.
You may hear the informal phrases "me either" and "me neither" in casual conversation. These phrases mean "me also" or "me too" to agree with a negative statement another person is making. Depending on your preference, you could say "me either" or "me neither" to the following phrases:
- I don't like egg salad sandwiches.
- I didn't study for the math test.
- I don't want to go to the art museum.
- I'm too tired to go for a walk.
- I don't think Bob and Susie are a good dating match.
Both are correct in a conversational context, but neither phrase is grammatically correct because they're not referring to a choice — they're simply a better way to say "I don't like that, too." If you want to be more technically correct in your speech, you can say "Neither do I" in response to a negative comment.
Test your ability to correctly choose between either and neither with these practice exercises. The answers are immediately below the practice items, so be careful not to skip ahead until you've tried to get the answers on your own.
Decide whether neither or either is the correct choice to complete the sentence.
- I don't like either/neither summer squash or winter squash.
- I am either/neither sad nor disappointed.
- You can choose either/neither soda, lemonade or iced tea with your meal.
- I can either/neither give you a ride nor loan my car to you.
- I am either/neither interested in nor concerned about the outcome of story.
- You either/neither want my help or you don't.
- Select a seat on either/neither side of the aisle.
- This poem is boring and doesn't make sense, either/neither.
- I am going to order either/neither grilled fish or fried shrimp.
- He either/neither called nor texted to let me know he would be late.
Have you already answered the practice items on your own? Look below to check your work.
- I don't like either summer squash or winter squash.
- I am neither sad nor disappointed.
- You can choose either soda, lemonade or iced tea with your meal.
- I can neither give you a ride nor loan my car to you.
- I am neither interested in nor concerned about the outcome of the story.
- You either want my help or you don't.
- Select a seat on either side of the aisle.
- This poem is boring and doesn't make sense, either.
- I am going to order either grilled fish or fried shrimp.
- He neither called nor texted to let me know he would be late.