Using Either and Neither

We use either and neither when talking about two possibilities.

Either… or

We use either when there is a choice between the two possibilities. Only one of the two possibilities is available.

You can have either the cake or the ice-cream.

You can choose between the cake and the ice-cream. You can have one. You can't have both.

Either John or Kate should get the job.

John and Kate would both be good at the job. Only one person will get the job.

In sentences with 'either' we use 'or' to separate the two possibilities.

You can have either the cake or the ice-cream.

The two options are 'the cake' and 'the ice-cream'. Notice the 'or' between the two options.

Neither… nor

We use neither when none of the possibilities are available.

You can have neither the cake nor the ice-cream.

None of the options are available. You can't have the cake and you can't have the ice-cream.

Neither John nor Kate should get the job.

Kate and John are not good choices for the job. John shouldn't get the job. Kate shouldn't get the job.

In sentences with 'neither' we use 'nor' to separate the two possibilities.

You can have neither the cake nor the ice-cream.

The two options are 'the cake' and 'the ice-cream'. Notice the 'nor' between the two options.

When to Use Singular and Plural Verbs

The rules for using singular or plural verbs are the same for 'either' and 'neither'.

You use a singular verb after the possibilities if both of the two possibilities are singular.

Either John or Kate is going to the meeting.

John and Kate are both singular nouns (one person), so we use the singular verb 'is'.

Neither John nor Kate is going to the meeting.

John and Kate are both singular nouns (one person), so we use the singular verb 'is'.

You use a plural verb after the possibilities if one of the two possibilities is plural.

Either Mike or his children are going to the football match.

'Children' is a plural noun (more than one person), so we use the plural verb 'are'.

Neither Mike nor his children are going to the football match.

'Children' is a plural noun (more than one person), so we use the plural verb 'are'.