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SAT Course » Neither...Nor/Either...Or

Neither...Nor/Either...Or Neither...Nor/Either...Or

Read the rules below, culled from various websites, about the conjunctions neither...nor and either...or.

Frequently, the SAT and PSAT test on rules related to these conjunctions. Nor must ALWAYS follow neither. If a sentence gives neither...or, then it is grammatically wrong.

Also, neither...nor and either...or are exclusive. It is not both subject, but one or/nor the other. To determine the correct verb, look AFTER the nor/or. Do not consider both subjects together.Because sentences applying this rule can sound awkward, many students miss questions connected to them on the tests.

 


Either … or

'Either … or' is used in sentences in a positive sense meaning "one or the other, this or that, he or she, etc." Verb conjugation depends on the subject (singular or plural) closest to the conjugated verb.

Examples:

Either Peter or the girls need to attend the course. (second subject plural)
Either Jane or Matt is going to visit next weekend. (second subject singular)

Neither … nor

'Neither … nor' is used in sentences in a negative sense meaning "not this one nor the other, not this nor that, not he nor she, etc.". Verb conjugation depends on the subject (singular or plural) closest to the conjugated verb.

Examples:

Neither Frank nor Lilly lives in Eugene. (second subject singular)
Neither Axel nor my other friends care about their future. (second subject plural)

Do you understand the rules? Test your knowledge with this both ... and, neither ... nor, either ... or quiz.


Neither-nor: singular or plural verb?

According to the Chicago Manual of Style, in a sentence with more than one subject, the subject that’s closest to the verb determines the form of the verb:

Neither Henry nor his sons have a Prius (sons is plural and is closer to the verb than Henry is)

BUT

Neither the boys nor Henry has a Prius (Henry is singular and is closer to the verb than boys is).

If you believe that have sounds better, Chicago suggests arranging the sentence so that a plural noun is closer to the verb than a singular noun (Neither Henry nor the boys have a Prius).


What is the difference between "neither-nor" and "either-or"?

I recently received an email with the following question: "Peter has not gone to school today, _______ has he done his homework.” The question was regarding whether "neither" or "nor" should be placed in the blank. What do you think? If you're not sure, read the explanations for the two pairings and then try.


"Either" and "Or"

"Either" is also a singular adjective. It means one or the other, but not both. "Either" expresses one noun/pronoun doing one thing and the other noun/pronoun doing another; in this way it is a "positive" word because what is occurring is true. "Either" can be paired with "or", but not "nor".

  • She wanted to paint either a landscape or a self-portrait. (She wanted to paint one or the other, but not both.)

  • I can't remember if either Georgia or Julia wanted a doll for Christmas. (One of the girls wanted a doll, but not both.)

"Neither" and "Nor"

"Neither" is a singular adjective and can be paired with "nor" in a sentence. "Neither" is never paired with "or". When using "neither" in a sentence, you are saying not the first object and not the second object are behaving in a certain way. The nouns/pronouns are in agreement with one another. "Nor" can also be used independently when negating the second part of two negative clauses.

  • Neither Corie nor Bob went to the play. (Corie isn't going to the play. Bob isn't going to the play.)
  • She said, "I don't like broccoli." I said, "Neither do I." [Neither is used here because she doesn't like broccoli, and I don't like broccoli. (You may hear people say,"Me neither," this is colloquial and not grammatically correct. You wouldn't say, "Me don't like broccoli.")]
  • She didn't want to sing, nor did she want to dance.





Edward Wevodau
Colleyville Heritage High School
5401 Heritage Avenue
Colleyville, TX 76034
817-305-4700