Difference Between Either and Neither (With Table)

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. However, the meaning of both phrases is rather different, with one indicating acceptance of the alternatives presented and the other indicating refusal, therefore in this article, we will compare both words side by side to better comprehend their usages and contrasts.

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.

The word ‘either’ is used more as a function word between two or even more coordinated words, phrases, or sentences, frequently connected by or to signify that what follows will be the first of two or more choices 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 typically as conjunction, even in colloquial and spoken usage.

‘Neither’ on the other hand, usually is coupled with the former word for ease of conversation and familiar intonation as in; “I neither speak English nor French” can also be stated as “I don’t speak English or French language”. 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’ typically delivers a denial and is most commonly used in negative sentences.

Comparison Table Between Either and Neither

Parameters of ComparisonEitherNeither
MeaningIt is most commonly employed as a function word among two or more coordinated words, phrases, or sentences, typically 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. The term is pretty familiar yet, let us understand the proper usage of it using some examples. “You can kick the ball with either foot,” as an adjective. 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. ‘Either’ is positive, whereas ‘neither’ is negative.

That is while describing anything, you can use either. When you mention what it isn’t, it’s a negative statement. “You are allowed to use any towel.” 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.’

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.” “Neither the white nor the grey dog-like bathing, but the brown one does.”

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. The dogs in the latter line do not like taking baths, therefore the word “appreciating baths” does not apply to them, and the assertion is in one form in which it is in negative emphasis.

However, if you look really closely, you will notice another difference in the sentences: when the term ‘either’ is used in a phrase, the term ‘or’ is used. When ‘neither’ is being used, ‘nor’ should be used instead. 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 usually 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.’ “The woman and the man don’t get along.” While this is valid, a native speaker might probably express this notion differently: “The guy and the lady don’t get along.” This is also right, and this is why the words “neither” and “nor” are less commonly used.

Main Differences Between Either and Neither

  1. Either is more commonly used in spoken and colloquial English than neither.
  2. Either is used in positive statements and sentences with choices whereas neither is used in negative statements.
  3. Either can be used as an adverb but neither cannot be used as an adverb but as a determiner.
  4. Synonyms of either are; Additionally, again, also, besides, further, furthermore, likewise, etc whereas the synonyms of neither are; Not, not yet, nor this nor that, not either, etc.
  5. Either can replace the usage of neither by using the relative term, “not either” but the vice-versa is not possible.

Conclusion

To summarise a few variances and crucial considerations, ‘neither’ cannot be used as an adverb in standard English, yet it is frequently used in local dialects. So, while both terms indicate an option and may be used as a pronoun, preposition, or adjective, one indicates what is an option while the other does not. As we can see in the preceding part, native speakers avoid using ‘neither’ and instead use other phrases to indicate a negative decision.

References

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/either
  2. https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/neither
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