Table of Contents
- Neither/Nor Usage
- Neither/Nor Examples
- Nor Vs. Or
- Common Errors in the Use of Neither/Nor
- Lesson Summary
Neither/nor are conjunctions that connect two parts of a sentence to each other. They must be used in parallel structures; i.e., both sides must be balanced. They indicate negation.
Some of the neither /nor rules are as follows.
Examples will be given in later paragraphs.
Although both neither and not are words to indicate negation in sentences, their parts of speech are different. While not is an adverb, neither can be a conjunction, adjective, or pronoun.
Neither can be
Neither as a Conjunction
Neither as an Adjective
Neither is used with a singular noun and singular verb.
Neither as a Pronoun
Neither of is used with count nouns and pronouns; the verb is singular.
Not is an adverb, and it is used for negation.
Nor can be used by itself, without neither, in a sentence as a conjunction or coordinating conjunction. It indicates and follows a negation in the sentence.
Nor as a Conjunction
Nor is a conjunction to connect 'you' and 'Jane' while showing negation.
Nor as a Coordinating Conjunction
Nor is a coordinating conjunction that connects two independent clauses to each other. As a coordinating conjunction, it is preceded by a comma.
In this sentence, nor has connected two independent clauses to each other. It is preceded by a comma.
As coordinating conjunctions, both nor and or are preceded by a comma to join two independent clauses. However, nor can be used only for negation, while or can be used in both positive and negative sentences.
Nor and Or as Conjunctions
This sentence is a negative sentence as the verb is negated by not, i.e., cannot eat. Or is a conjunction; therefore, the sentence can be rephrased as: I cannot eat beef, and I cannot eat chicken.
This is a positive sentence. The use of or shows two options.
This sentence can be rephrased as I will not talk to you, and I will not talk to your parents.
Nor and Or as Coordinating Conjunctions
Nor and or can connect two independent clauses to each other. In this case, they need to be preceded by a comma. Nor is used in negative sentences, and or is used in positive sentences.
Or has connected two independent clauses to each other; both clauses are positive.
Nor has connected two independent clauses to each other; both clauses are negative.
When using neither/nor in a sentence, the verb must agree with the subject. If the subject is singular, the verb will be singular. If the subject is plural, then the verb must be plural.
John is singular. His brother is also singular. Likes agrees with his brother.
Both cookies and candies are plural. Are agrees with candies.
Some common errors when using neither/ nor are
Neither /nor rules
While not is an adverb, neither can be
Both nor and or can be conjunctions used without a comma, or they can be coordinating conjunctions connecting two independent clauses preceded by a comma.
When using neither/nor in a sentence, the verb must agree with the subject.
Common errors when using neither/ nor :
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Let's review the relationship between "either" and "or," and "neither" and "nor." First, "either" and "or" are always paired together and "neither" and "nor" are always paired together—that is to say, we would never pair either/nor or neither/or. Second, in a string of items requiring a "nor," be sure to write "nor" before each.
Evaluate whether the following sentences are correct, and write "correct" or "incorrect" next to each.
1) I'd prefer either pasta or fish tonight for dinner.
2) Neither blankets or gloves or hats or my parka could keep me warm enough.
3) When I was young, I wanted to be either a fire fighter or a police officer.
4) Neither Sarah nor Hayley nor Kevin nor Emmanuel said that the commissioner made a good speech.
Use the following information to practice making your own sentences. Be sure to use either/or and neither/nor correctly.
5) State that you don't like hot dogs and you don't like hamburgers.
6) Tell your friend that you are fine ordering Chinese food and you are fine ordering Mexican food for dinner.
7) Someone's at the door and it could only be one of two people—state who it might be.
8) You didn't see four movies—tell us that you didn't see them, and be sure to list them all.
When using either/or and neither/nor, be sure to maintain subject-verb agreement. You can do this by making sure that the verb and the noun that is closest to the verb agree with each other. For instance, you might say, "Either Jennifer or the twins are going to be here first." In this case "are" is used since "the twins" is closest. The opposite—though also correct—would be, "Either the twins or Jennifer is going to be here first." In the below items, choose the word to make proper subject-verb agreement.
9) Neither the 5th grade teachers nor the principal (is/are) coming to the meeting.
10) Either the lieutenant or the officers of Car 58 (is/are) going to respond to the emergency.
5) (Example) I like neither hot dogs nor hamburgers.
6) (Example) I am fine with either Mexican or Chinese for dinner.
7) (Example) That has to be either Pete or Ace at the door.
8) (Example) I have seen neither Field of Dreams nor Home Alone nor Alien nor From Here to Eternity.
In order to use neither correctly, the subject has to be singular, and it has to agree with the verb.
Neither nor are used in negative sentences such as this:
Ms. Jackson has neither a piano nor does she play it.
The correct answer is neither nor. It is not neither or.
Example: I can neither speak Chinese nor understand it.
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