The English words either and neither can cause confusion. However, neither construction is very difficult once learned.
Either is used to offer a choice between two possibilities. It is often paired with or. Either coupled with or is used in a positive sense, indicating one or the other, this or that, he or she, etc. Examples:
Either Pan or Wattana will be there.
We will bring either snacks or a beverage to the party.
She will buy either a new laptop or a new cell phone.
Either can also be followed by the words one of' or just of for adding to a group of two. Examples:
Either of us could attend the meeting.
Either one of them would be happy to go.
Neither is used to indicate "not the first one and not the second one". It is often paired with nor. Neither coupled with nor has a negative meaning, indicating that neither one nor the other subject does an action. Examples:
He speaks neither Thai nor English.
Neither Pornthip nor Nok will be joining us.
They served neither coffee nor tea.
Neither can also be followed by the words one of or just of with a group of two. Examples:
Neither of them is ready for the party.
Neither one of the students has enough money.
Either means one, and neither means none. When making comparisons, either goes with or and neither with nor.
Try the sentences below, choosing either/or, neither/nor, either or neither.
1. Win's teacher is upset. He did ... his homework ... participated in class.
2. ... of the students is a good choice to represent the school. They both have excellent grades.
3. I can't wait for my birthday. I am hoping for ... a new bike ... a skateboard.
4. ... one of us is willing to drive to Chiang Rai. It is too far.
4. Neither; 1. neither/nor; 2. Either; 3. either/or
Heather Vlach is an English-language specialist and Intensive Studies educator at International School Bangkok in Nonthaburi. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org .