Either vs Neither: Difference and Comparison

Both ‘either’ and ‘neither’ have been used in virtually identical contexts. They can both function as an adjective, noun, or sometimes as conjunction. They can be used as either an adjective or perhaps a pronoun.

Key Takeaways

  1. “Either” indicates one of two choices, while “neither” is used to negate both options.
  2. “Either” implies a positive outcome, while “neither” implies a negative outcome.
  3. Depending on the context, “either” and “neither” can function as conjunctions, pronouns, or adjectives.

Either vs Neither

The difference between either and neither is that when referencing a decision between two possibilities, either is used. “Either one must pay the fees,” for instance. “Either you eat or I will eat your burger,” for example. It can also be used negatively, replacing the words also or also. So, if you’re intimately familiar, you can often use ‘either’ again and the meaning will be the same. Whereas, the usage of ‘neither’ is only when you are opposed or the subject denies the possible clauses for example; “I do not eat sweet potatoes neither does he”, here the subject denies the action of eating potatoes along with the second person.

Either vs Neither

The presence of the term “options” in a statement or circumstance frequently prompts the use of this specific word. It is multi-modal in terms of usage and may be used as a pronoun, adjective, and most as conjunction, even in colloquial and spoken usage.

In this example we can see that the words ‘either’ and ‘neither can be used as each other’s replacement; however, it is not always true. ‘Neither’ delivers a denial and is most commonly used in negative sentences.

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Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonEitherNeither
MeaningIt is most commonly employed as a function word among two or more coordinated words, phrases, or sentences, connected by or indicating that what follows would be the first of two or more options.  As an adverb, it is used to emphasize an option after a questioning or conditional sentence, especially when negation is indicated.It is used to demonstrate that a bad remark also applies to another person or object. Also used as a conjunction with nor, i.e. to link two words or phrases.
EtymologyOld English ǣgther, contracted form of ǣg(e)hwæther, of Germanic origin; ultimately related to aye and whether.Middle English: alteration (by association with either) of Old English nawther.
ModesIt can be used as a pronoun, verb, an adverb as well as a conjunction. It can be used as a conjunction, pronouns as well as a determiner. The word ‘neither’ is commonly seen in usage with the word ‘nor’.
Usage ExampleEither I am drowsy or the world feels foggy.Either you go or I will.Neither do I like dogs or cats.Neither of us knows where the treasure was hidden.
SynonymsAdditionally, again, also, besides, further, furthermore, likewise, etc.Not, not yet, nor this nor that, not either, etc.

What is Either?

The word ‘either’ is very frequently used by us whenever we are offered a choice of options are involved. In this case, they change the word immediately following it.

They are used similarly as pronouns, but without the noun. As a result of these instances, we may conclude that ‘either’ is frequently employed in positive sentences with a choice.

When the speaker says this, they mean that you are allowed for any of the towels and hence the speaker is highlighting the choices, but only if you have a positive choice of two or more.

In recent years, ‘either’ has been much more commonly used with ‘not.’ In such an instance, the above statement would read: “You may not use either towel.” Now, as I said before, the pair of words can also function as conjunctions.

Their roles are slightly different in this case since they affect a larger portion of the phrase. “You have the option of getting the game or attending the dinner tomorrow.” “You can either get up at 8 a.m. to feed the cat, or the cat will scratch your face.” In these illustrative situations, we can see that the phrase ‘neither may frequently be replaced with the relative terms of ‘either being ‘not either.

either

What is Neither?

The word ‘neither’ is less used than either, however, the meaning and usage are completely different. Here are some instances and descriptions of how this word is used: “You can’t acquire a dog or a cat.”

In this scenario, the speaker is informing listeners that the items mentioned in the statement are either impossible to achieve or do not relate to anything.

Because they split the options, ‘or’ and ‘nor’ are frequently used in conjunction with ‘either’ and ‘neither.’

The usage of these terms often depends upon the type of speaker the person is. Native speakers and casual speakers have very different approaches towards these terms and sometimes skip the usage of neither and either.

‘Or’ is used in conjunction with ‘either.’ ‘Nor’ must be used with ‘neither,’ although native English speakers frequently do not. Because it is used less frequently than ‘neither,’ the word ‘nor’ is going out of favor in native English even more than ‘neither.

Main Differences Between Either and Neither

  1. Some examples are; Not, not yet, nor this nor that, not either, etc.
  2. Either can replace the usage of neither by using the relative term, “not either” but the vice-versa is not possible.
Difference Between Either and Neither
References
  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/either
  2. https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/neither

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