Either vs. Neither: A Simple Guide to Getting It Right

It can be challenging to select between either and neither largely because the two words look and sound so similar. Additionally, they are fairly close in meaning and can both function as four different parts of speech in English grammar. This simple guide will help you decide between either vs. neither so you choose the right word every time.

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Either vs. Neither: Simple Grammar Guidance

When you're focused on properly using either vs. neither, start by focusing on the connotations of the two words. The word either generally has a positive connotation, while the word neither generally has a negative connotation.

  • The word either is usually used to offer options, at least one of which is allowed or can be chosen. Think of either as, "I get to pick one!"
  • The word neither is used to list options that cannot be chosen, are excluded or not allowed. Think of neither as, "I can't have any."
  • When "or" or "nor" is used along with one of these two words, the pairing is always the same. Either is paired with or and neither is paired with nor.
    • For either/or, remember to pair the two words that start with a vowel.
    • For neither/nor, remember to pair the two words that begin with the same first letter.

Either and Neither: Parts of Speech

For a deeper dive into the grammar of either vs. neither, it's important to consider how these words can be used as four different parts of speech (adjective, pronoun, adverb, and conjunction). Explore the meanings and usage of each part of speech, along with sample sentences that demonstrate correct usage of either and neither.

Adjective Usage

When either is used as an adjective, it can refer to "both of two things," or to "one or the other of two things."

  • There are bedrooms on either side of the apartment.
  • You can have either chocolate or vanilla ice cream.

When neither is used as an adjective, it means "not either." In other words, its definition is "none of two things."

  • Steve didn't like that movie, and neither did I.
  • Neither Stephanie nor Karen attended the party.

Pronoun Usage

When either is used as a pronoun, it refers to one or the other of two things. The meaning is the same for the adjective form, but the pronoun form is used in place of a noun instead of describing or modifying a noun.

  • Either of those options will work.
  • Does either know how to write in calligraphy?

When neither is used as a pronoun, it means "not either or none." It means the same as its adjective form but serves as a substitute for a noun when used this way.

  • Neither of you is invited to the party.
  • Neither of them can sing.
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Adverb Usage

The adverb form of either is used to mean "also not." It is the last word at the end of a negative statement or assertion, placed there for emphasis. This is the only usage in which either is used in a solely negative context.

  • That movie is not educational or entertaining either.
  • That recipe is not tasty or nutritious either.

When neither is used as an adverb, it too means "also not." It is placed 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.

Conjunction Usage

When the word either functions as a conjunction, it is used to indicate that two or more options will be provided, connected by the word "or." It is used to indicate that one of the options will be selected.

  • The combo comes with either French fries, tater tots or onion rings.
  • I can either continue taking dance classes or get an after-school job.

When used as a conjunction, neither means "also not." It is used in connection with the word "nor" to indicate that none of the options given can be selected.

  • I can neither loan you money nor give you money.
  • Johnny can neither talk to you on the phone nor come out to play.

Related Phrases: Me Either vs. Me Neither

The phrases me either and me neither are often used in casual conversation. These phrases are interpreted to mean exactly the same thing and are appropriate in the same situations. These phrases mean "me also" or "me too," but should be used only to respond when your intent is to agree with a negative statement someone is making. When a person says that he or she does not like, want or approve of something, either of these phrases can be an appropriate response.

Me either and me neither are both appropriate responses to statements like the ones listed below, assuming that you agree with the person who makes the statement.

  • 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.
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Either and Neither Exercises

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.

Either and Neither Practice Questions

Simply decide which word (neither or either) should be used to complete the sentence.

  1. I don't like ______________ summer squash or winter squash.
  2. I am ______________ sad nor disappointed.
  3. You can choose ______________ soda, lemonade or iced tea with your meal.
  4. I can ______________ give you a ride nor loan my car to you.
  5. I am ______________ interested in nor concerned about the outcome of story.
  6. You ______________ want my help or you don't.
  7. Select a seat on ______________ side of the aisle.
  8. This poem is boring and doesn't make sense ______________.
  9. I am going to order ______________ grilled fish or fried shrimp.
  10. He ______________ called nor texted to let me know he would be late.

Practice Question Answers

Have you already answered the practice items on your own? Look below to check your work.

  1. I don't like either summer squash or winter squash.
  2. I am neither sad nor disappointed.
  3. You can choose either soda, lemonade or iced tea with your meal.
  4. I can neither give you a ride nor loan my car to you.
  5. I am neither interested in nor concerned about the outcome of the story.
  6. You either want my help or you don't.
  7. Select a seat on either side of the aisle.
  8. This poem is boring and doesn't make sense either.
  9. I am going to order either grilled fish or fried shrimp.
  10. He neither called nor texted to let me know he would be late.
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Making Sense of Neither vs. Either

Learning how to differentiate between similar words starts with considering the definition of each term and knowing how the words should be used. Now that you have that information about either and neither, along with some quick tips to help you select the correct term, you're ready to tackle more terms that are hard to tell apart. Get started by figuring out when to use continual vs. continuous. Then, explore recurring vs. reoccurring. After that, you'll be ready to master all of the commonly confused words.