How To Get Neither Nor And Either Or Right Every Time

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Neither nor picture

Never get confused again with neither and nor

There is a simple way to make sure you use neither nor clauses correctly every time.

All you need to do is remember that the first letter in each of the words starts with an N for not.

In other words, these two words are always negative. The positive form is either and or.

We use neither and nor when we have two negatives that agree with each other. We use either and or when two positives agree or when we have a choice of two things. It’s that simple.

 

How to use neither and nor together in a sentence

Let’s use the example in the top image in this article with the dog, cat and bird.

The bird is able to fly.

The cat is not able to fly.

The dog is not able to fly.

 

Because we have two negatives with not that agree, we can join these phrases together.

Neither the cat nor the dog is able to fly.

When you use two negative clauses that agree, it is simple to get it right. But notice that this form doesn’t use a comma.

Neither my son nor my daughter like Brussel sprouts.

It was neither the economy nor my staff that caused my business to fail.

There is neither a problem with your hardware nor with your software.

Neither Jane nor Mary likes red wine.

 

Is neither singular or plural?

It can be both. You can use neither with a singular or plural verb.

But be careful when you have a singular and a plural clause to join together in the same sentence. Your subject verb agreement must be correct.

 

Neither the coach nor the players are available for an interview.

Neither the players nor the coach is available for an interview.

Neither the man nor the women seem happy.

Neither the women nor the man seems happy.

Neither the apples nor the melon looks fresh.

Neither the melon nor the apples look fresh.

 

All you need to remember to do is check the noun before the verb and make sure the verb then agrees in singular or plural form. If the noun or pronoun in the nor clause is a singular subject, the verb is singular. If it’s a plural noun, then it takes a plural verb.

 

Other ways to use neither

You can use neither without nor to say that there were two objects or people but without referring to the two directly. However, note that you need to use the singular in many instances.

Neither parent bothered to go to the school concert. (Not the mother nor the father.)

Neither dress suited her. (She tried two dresses.)

Neither of us went to the airport to see him off. (Me and someone else.)

I met some old friends yesterday. But neither had time for a drink. (There were only two old friends.)

 

Using neither with and, and nor with a comma

Because neither is negative, it can agree with another negative clause. To join the two clauses we use and.

You can also use nor, but it doesn’t use and. It uses a comma.

I didn’t bring an umbrella and neither did my sister. We both got soaking wet.

Mike hadn’t thought about going to the concert and neither had his wife.

Rudy wasn’t well today and neither was his brother.

Carol didn’t like the movie and neither did I.

 

We didn’t visit the museum, nor the art gallery.

I don’t drink alcohol, nor do I smoke.

John wasn’t affected by the stock market crash, nor did it have an effect on his business.

There’s nothing wrong with your heart, nor with your blood pressure.

 

In a conversation for agreement

We can use neither and nor when we want to say that we agree with someone when they say something negative. Look at these examples using neither + auxiliary verb + subject.

Susan: I’m not hungry.
Rachel. Neither am I.

Susan: I don’t feel like pizza tonight.
Rachel: Neither do I.

Susan: I haven’t had my dinner yet.
Rachel: Nor have I.

With an object pronoun, you don’t need a verb. But notice how the word order changes with neither and nor.

Susan: I don’t like summer. It’s too hot.
Rachel: Me neither.

Susan: I have never been to London.
Rachel: Nor me.

Susan: I don’t want to go to work today.
Rachel: Me neither.

 

Negating either to replace neither

Because neither is negative, you can alternatively make either negative to write a similar sentence.

I didn’t pack a toothbrush and my sister didn’t either.

Craig hadn’t bothered to book tickets and his friend hadn’t either.

I don’t eat meat, and I don’t eat fish either.

The party wasn’t much fun and the food wasn’t good either.

 

Errors are easy to find and fix

When you check your usage, it is very easy to find your mistakes.

Never use neither with or.

Never use either with nor.

Neither David or his brother like football. Incorrect

Neither David nor his brother like football. Correct negative agreement

Either you choose this phone nor that one. Incorrect

Either you choose this phone or that one. Correct positive agreement

It’s that simple. Always make sure that you have negative – negative or positive – positive agreement and you will always be correct.

 

Summary

Neither and nor are buddies.

If you remember that both neither and nor are always negative and indicate not, you will be fine.

They are like never and nothing. These are words that are negative by starting with N and they mean not ever or not one thing.

In all negative agreement forms, you are saying it is not this one and it is not that one.

But when you use either and or, both are positive and you are indicating a choice. You can have this one or you can have that one.

Now you will neither make a mistake nor make an error with these two words.

 

Related reading: Control The Future Tense In Your Writing

 

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Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

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