Today on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from Mehdi in Iran. He writes:
Question: Please explain about either/or and neither/nor. – Mehdi, Iran
The words either, or and neither are kinds of conjunctions, or words that join parts of a sentence together.
English speakers use either … or to talk about a choice between two things. On a beautiful spring day, one can say, "I will either ride my bicycle or walk to work." In this example, the structure with verbs is:
EITHER verb OR verb
You can also use either…or with nouns. For example, when it is time to eat lunch, I may tell my coworker, "I feel like eating either Chinese or Indian food today. The structure is:
EITHER noun OR noun
We understand that the speaker will choose only one of the two things.
We use neither … nor when the speaker will not choose from the options given. My friend is getting married at a seaside town in New Zealand. She says, “Neither rain nor snow will ruin the wedding.” The structure is the same here:
NEITHER noun NOR noun
You can use neither…nor with verbs, too. One can say, "My brother is very healthy - he neither smokes nor drinks." The structure is:
NEITHER verb NOR verb
But if a sentence already has a negative word like "not," it is more common to use either. For example, “Sandy does not play either football or cricket.”
There are two ways of pronouncing either and neither. People in both the United States and Britain may say either with /i:/ at the beginning, as in "EE-thur" or with /ai/ at the beginning as in "EYE-thur." Choose one pronunciation and stay with it, so you will say the pair of words as "ee-thur" and "neethur" or say this pair: "eyethur" and "nyethur."
And that's Ask a Teacher.
I’m Jill Robbins.
Dr. Jill Robbins reported on this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
option – n. the opportunity or ability to choose something or to choose between two or more things
Can you make a sentence with either/or? How about with neither/nor? Write to us in the Comments Section.