|Either and Neither
The subject of a
sentence is almost
never part of a
|Either the left or
right road leads to
her aunt's house.
When deciding what
'person' a subject is
in, ask yourself what
pronoun could be
used in place of the
noun or nouns.
1st person - I
2nd person - you
3rd person - he, it or
1st person - we
2nd -person - you
3rd person - they
|Neither of the
live at the end of
Either and neither take
singular verbs if both
subjects are singular.
|Either or Neither with
If either or neither
appear in a sentence
with one or more plural
nouns, the noun closest
to the verb decides if
the verb is singular or
|Neither the woman
nor her brothers
have visited their
aunt in years.
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|Either and neither are adjectives that sometimes take the place
as subject of the nouns they modify (tell more about). Either
means 'this one or that one', 'these ones or those ones', 'this
one or those ones' or 'these ones or that one'; neither means
'not this one and not that one', 'not these ones and not those
ones', 'not this one and not those ones' or 'not these ones and
not that one'. Because these words indicate a choice of one
person or thing if the nouns are singular, they take a
third-person singular verb.
Take a look at the picture to the right.
Either road goes to the mountains.
Even though the sentence tells about two roads, the subject is a
singular noun - road. The same is true in this sentence beginning
Neither road goes to the ocean.
If this seems odd to you, think about the definitions of either and
neither: 'this or that', and 'not this and not that'. Thus, the
sentence above could be reworded like this -
This road doesn't go to the ocean, and that road doesn't
go to the ocean.
Perhaps in this example it easier to see that in the sentence each
road is being considered separately. Using the word neither
allows us to shorten the sentence and avoid repetition, but it
doesn't change the meaning of the sentence; only one road is
being thought of at a time.
Prepositional phrases frequently follow the words either and
neither. Which form of the verb to lead would you use in these
Either of these roads ______ to the mountains.
Neither of these roads ______ to the ocean.
Which forms of the verb did you choose? If you chose the
third-person singular leads for each sentence, you got it right!
The either/neither situation becomes even more interesting when
plural nouns are used in the subject. The rule in this situation: the
noun closest to the verb decides which person of the verb to use.
Consider these examples:
Neither the roads in the picture nor the road not shown
leads to the ocean.
Neither the road not shown nor the roads in the picture
lead to the ocean.
In the first sentence, the noun closest to the verb is singular, so
the third-person singular verb, leads, is used. In the second
sentence, the noun closest to the verb is plural; therefore, the
third-person plural verb, lead, is used.
Let's try two more sentence. You can decide which form of the
verb to want to use.
Neither the woman nor her friends ______ to go to the
Neither her friends nor the woman ______ to go to the