Neither/Nor: Meaning, Rule & Examples Video

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  • 0:04 Contrasting Options
  • 0:28 Either/Or, Neither/Nor
  • 1:16 Singular or Plural Verbs
  • 1:48 Practice
  • 2:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will learn when to use 'either/or' and when to use 'neither/nor' when comparing two choices. We will also learn about subject/verb agreement when making these comparisons.

Contrasting Options

In George Orwell's Animal Farm, the narrator tells us, ''But still, neither pigs nor dogs produced any food by their own labour; and there were very many of them, and their appetites were always good.'' Have you ever wondered why an author uses the correlative conjunction pair 'neither/nor' instead of 'either/or' when discussing two contrasting choices? Let's find out.

Either/Or, Neither/Nor

How do I know when to use 'either/or' and when to use 'neither/nor'? Both choices are used during comparisons of two things, but the difference is:

  • Either/or is used when making a positive decision between two or more things.
  • Neither/nor is used when the choice is negative or the person wants to say that more than one thing is not true.

For example, look at the following sentence:

  • You may either go to the library or a book store to get a copy of the required reading materials.

In this sentence, the author uses 'either/or' because the choice is between two things, either of which will provide positive outcomes.

Now, take a look at this sentence:

  • You may neither go to the mall nor may you go to the movie theater.

In this scenario, the use of 'neither/nor' indicates that there are two possibilities, neither of which is a viable option for you.

Singular or Plural Verbs

How is the use of 'either/or' and 'neither/nor' affected by whether or not the options are singular or plural?

If both choices are singular, then the verb will be singular. For example:

  • Neither the dog nor the cat wants to go out in this heat.

If both choices are plural, then the verb will be plural. For example:

  • Neither the dogs nor the cats want to go out in this heat.

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