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General characteristics of neither / nor

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The English language has changed and much like everything else in life has been simplified to fit the times. When you build a sentence, each word that is used within a sentence has a function and a name. It is not really necessary to know each word by its grammatical name and function, but it is important to know what the rules are that govern how you use each word in a sentence.

General Characteristics of neither / nor.

The use of Neither / Nor and Either / Or. These are strictly to be used after a verb or noun that is singular, and never with a plural.

*    In order to be able to use these within a sentence that is using a singular or a plural verb or noun, then Neither of, either of, none of or any of.

Neither is an indefinite pronoun. It eliminates the 'both' that are used in the sentence. Meaning that it can be used to establish the confidence within a sentence of something being indefinite. E.g. neither team liked the referee. Neither sister made it to the party.  Neither country was willing to come to a truce. 

Neither can also be used as an adverb before a modal verb or an auxiliary verb. An Auxiliary verb is a verb used with main verbs to show tense, mood, etc, and to form questions. E.g. do you know where he has gone? 'Do' and 'has' in this sentence are auxiliary verbs that express tense. Auxiliary is an adjective which literally means giving help or support. E.g. my sister is an auxiliary nurse at the hospital; my grandfather was an auxiliary troop during the war. Therefore to simply identify an auxiliary in a sentence, identifying the helping word or one that is giving support is a good place to start.
A Modal verb is used with another verb to express possibility, permission, obligation, etc. examples of modal verbs include: can, could, may, might, must, ought to, shall, should, will and would. Dare, need and used to also share some features of modal verbs. These are examples of modal verbs used in sentences. You must find a job. You ought to stop smoking. You need to leave that girl alone.

You cannot use neither or together or use either nor together.

I mentioned above that there are boundaries that govern the use of neither. You can only use a singular noun or verb after neither and either. So there is a correct and incorrect way to use them. These examples with clarify.

  • Neither candidates made it to the final round of the tournament.
  • Neither children will be coming to school tomorrow.
  • Neither candidates were qualified for the position advertised.
  • Neither countries were willing to come to a truce.
  • Neither Universities provided good candidates this past year.

It is possible that we have used neither with a plural noun of verb after in speech; it's a very subtle grammatical error to pick up. All the above mentioned sentences are incorrect because they use a plural immediately after neither. Correcting these would require using the bolded words in singular which may sound strange to the tongue.

Neither candidate made it to the final round of the tournament. And the same correction can be done for the other sentences.

Again as mentioned above, to be able to use a plural, then the following are used instead:
Neither of, either of, none of or any of. The following examples with clarify.

  • Neither candidates made it to the interview on time.
  • Neither children will be going to school tomorrow.
  • None of the candidates made it to the interview on time.
  • Neither child will be coming to school tomorrow / neither of the children will be coming to school tomorrow.

The use of 'nor' with neither comes into play when the subjects within a sentence have been identified. The following examples will clarify.

  • Neither the dog nor the cat was fed this morning.
  • Neither the dogs nor the cats were fed this morning.

Take note of the differences between these sentences.

  • I speak neither Zulu nor Ndebele.
  • The children went to neither school nor the play ground.
  • The title went to neither the first nor the second contestants.

It might not seem wrong or completely incorrect to say:

  • The children went to neither school or the play ground this morning.
  • The title went to neither the first or the second contestant.
  • The children went to either the school nor the play ground.
  • The title went to either the first nor the second contestant.

These are however incorrect, they come mutually exclusive. Neither…nor and Eitheror.

The general characteristics of either / or.

The same rules and principles apply to when you use either…or in a sentence and in speech as with neither…nor. The use of Neither Nor and Either Or. Both these are strictly to be used after a verb or noun that is singular, never with a plural.

*    In order to be able to use these within a sentence that is using a singular or a plural verb or noun, then Neither of, either of, none of or any of.

Either is also a definite pronoun. It gives the option of one of or the other, each of the two and when used as either…or it is used to show a choice of two alternatives.

Either is someone less complicated than neither. These sentences can be used to clarify when to use either…or.

  • You can park either side of the street.
  • Keep either one of the photos – I don't mind which.
  • The offices on either side of the building were empty.
  • I don't like the red shirt and I don't like the yellow one either.
  • He can't hear and he can hardly speak either.
  • Either you come home now or stay there all week.
  • I left it either on the table or the chair.
  • I will have either the cake or the muffin for breakfast.
  • She is either French or Spanish.
  • Duke likes either the blue shirt or the white one; Randy likes neither the blue nor the white.

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English Tutor.

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