How to Use Either, Neither, Or, and Nor Correctly

My mother seems to appreciate having a grammar lover in the family. For Christmas, one of the gifts she bought me was the book I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar. (By the way, it is equally correct to say “bad grammar.”) Last week, my mother emailed to ask if she was using the word “nor” correctly, which brings me to today’s post: the use of either, neither, and the connecting words that go with them.

Either/Or, Neither/Nor

First things first: Either is always paired with or, and neither is always paired with nor. If you are matching either and nor, I hate to break it to you, but you’re doing it wrong.

Additionally, nor is generally not used where neither is not also used. Got enough negatives in there for you? Here’s an example:

“I fear man nor beast!” Jay proclaimed as Frank stared at the python coiled on the branch over his head. (Wrong.)

“I fear neither man nor beast!” Jay proclaimed as Frank stared at the python coiled on the branch over his head. (Right!)

Correct Use of Either

Either is used when you are making a comparison between two ideas, and only one of the ideas will come to pass. Example:

“Well,” said Frank, “either you start fearing, or you are camping by yourself.”

I-Judge-You-When-You-Use-Poor-GrammarCorrect Use of Neither

Neither indicates that the two ideas are linked together. It’s kind of like a negative conjunction. But if you use neither, then make sure your sentence does not have any other negatives preceding it. If you prefer to use a negative, then you want to use either.

Jay had seen neither the snake nor the wasp’s nest on the next tree, and was preparing to stake his tarp in that less-than-safe location.

Jay had not seen either the snake or the wasp’s nest on the next tree, and was preparing to stake his tarp in that less-than-safe location.

Hopefully you will never see a stray nor again.

Need more grammar help? After you master “neither nor” and “either or” in the practice section below, check out our tutorial Grammar 101. You too can become the person your friends turn to for grammar advice.


Tell us about a disastrous camping trip. Use either/or and neither/nor to establish how much your characters would rather be anywhere but the African savanna/Arctic tundra/Griswold family camping trip.

Write for fifteen minutes. Post your practice in the comments when you’re finished.


About Liz Bureman

Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.

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  • Katie Axelson

    First, I judge people with bad grammar and proofread stuff but then I re-read my own and shudder.

    Second, are there not exceptions when “nor” can be used without “neither” as long as the sentence is negative. For example, “She can’t ski nor can she ice skate.” Maybe that’s a bad example but I can’t think of a better one.


    • liz

      True, Katie, you can use “nor” in conjunction with another negative. For example:

      I don’t like getting up early, nor do I like setting alarms.

      Generally it’s a judgment call by the writer/editor to decide which sounds better.

      • BC

        Liz Bureman,
        Thank you for your explanation the either…or conjunction. Now, I understand it.
        Bounthong Chanthavisouk

  • Marianne

    “I told you I should have stayed home. I hate camping and now I’m sick,” said Jenny to her husband.

    “You’re not sick Jenny, you’re just having a little allergic reaction to either something that we walked though today on the trail, or something you ate at the camper’s cantina.”

    “A little reaction, you call hives all over my body a little reaction? I hate this. I wish we’d either gone to New York, on gone on a cruise. Why did we have to do this? Don’t think we’re getting a camper like Tom and Rachel’s. I hate this and I never want to do it again,” she said and she began to cry.

    “Did you take some Benedryl?” said her husband.

    “Yes I took it a little while ago. You know that neither Tom nor Rachel have any kind of allergies. They can take this camping junk. You can take it. But I can’t.”

    “Okay I get it. We won’t do this again, but let’s try to enjoy it now. We’re going to cook steak and then maybe play either Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble or something. Is that doable?”

    “Yeah you can do that. I’m not. I don’t like either of those games, nor do I like steak.”

    “Fine then. I’ll go and represent our family.”

    “We need a family representative at a state campground? These aren’t our neighbors, they’re just people who happen to have their big fancy camper near our stupid tent. We aren’t obligated to them.”

    “So you don’t want me to go?”

    “You can go if you want. I might have a reaction to the Benadryl though. It can make people sleep walk. I would hate to walk away out her in the woods.”

    “Okay then Jenny, I’ll go and tell them that we can’t make it, and I’ll stay here with you. I can fan you so you don’t sweat away your Calamine Lotion. Tom and Rachel have AC in their camper.”

    Jenny thought about the AC. It was tempting. maybe steak and Scrabble were a good idea, but the Benadryl was kicking in and she felt her eyes closing. She tried to dream up another complaint, but she could neither keep her eyes open, nor head up. She felt herself falling in a heap on her cot. What a life, camping, yuck were her last thought before falling asleep.

    • Joe Bunting

      Way to follow directions and put together a very fun piece, Marianne. This one was my favorite use of either / or, “We’re going to cook steak and then maybe play either Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble or something.” I think I liked it because of how funny it is to think of playing Trivial Pursuit, the most difficult game in the world in my opinion, on a camping trip.

      The only thing that would have made this better is if you ended it, “Either, ‘what a life,’ ‘camping,’ or ‘yuck’ was her last thought before falling asleep. She couldn’t tell. She was already gone.”

      Very entertaining, Marianne. Nice conflict and a good bit of sarcastic humor. I liked it.

      • Marianne

        Thanks Joe. I had fun writing that and it is really a fifteen minute one. I can write a lot more dialogue than description in fifteen minutes. Weird. I would think that it would be the other way around.

    • Bo Lane

      Good work. Sounds like my wife! I’m kidding, of course.

  • Maggie

    This post is real helpful. I’m always making sure I’m using proper grammer. Just because it sounds right doesn’t mean it is. There, their and they’re is also often used incorrectly.

    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Maggie. It’s funny, Liz wrote about that last week. Check it:

    • Kumi

      Cant nor be used independent of neither when constructing a compound sentence for instance using fanboys?

  • Stefanie Jones

    This post is timed perfectly, since there’s been a question on “either” here at work. Is it proper to say “Me neither” or “Me either”? (In response, for instance, to: “I don’t like cockroaches.”) Eh?

    • liz

      Oooh, a good question. In informal spoken English, you really can use either one.

      Personally, I prefer “me neither” because it reinforces the negative that the speaker is expressing (and because you don’t have that awkward double vowel sound). But if you’re in Australia or the UK, “me either” might be more common.

      • Bo Lane

        I had a question in relation to this as well. The usage of “Either way…” or “Neither of them…” I tend to use “Either way” quite a bit. I also tend to use “quite a bit” quite a bit. Any suggestions? That’s the beauty of a limited vocabulary, I suppose.

  • Stewart

    “You have fifteen minutes.” said the doctor. I could see he was upset. He is an organized man and likes neither surprises nor unscheduled visits from patients. But I had to get this off my chest.

    “Thanks for seeing me.” I said.

    “What’s on your mind?”

    “I had that dream again. The one with the empty house across the street.”

    “Yes. What did you see?” He asked while jotting on his note pad.

    “The lights. The lights were on in the upstairs bedroom.”

    “Hmm. This is new.”

    I have the same recurring dream of the house. In reality the house sits vacant. Nobody has lived there for month’s. No one even visits the house. There is not even a for sale sign in the yard. The lawn is in disarray and the shrubs have grown up over the front porch. The lack of attention to the house makes it stick out like a sore thumb. The neighbors hate it and none of their kids will go near it. None of us know why it still sits vacant. It’s either the economy or simple lack of interest. In my dream, the house is normally dark and empty but this time it showed signs of life.

    “What did you do in the dream?” he responds.

    “The same thing as always. I walked across the street to see if anyone was there.”

    In my dream, it played out like a scene from a horror movie. The air is cold and moist. There isn’t much sound. I can hear the wind blowing but I can neither feel it nor see the effects of it in the tree’s. I walk across my lawn and stop under the streetlight. The moon is covered by clouds and the streetlight is the only source of light, other than the window.

    “But this time I think I saw someone moving behind the curtains.” I continued.

    As always, in my dream, I walk up the empty drive way until I get to the stairs that leads up to the front door, my eyes never leaving the movement in the window. The stairs are cracked and warped. They squeak and groan when I step on them. They are either old or neglected. Probably both.

    “And how did you feel?”

    I swallowed hard. “I… I felt afraid.”

    I usually stand on the front porch, away from the door but this time I found myself facing the door with my hand raised, ready to knock.

    The doctor leaned in a little and stared at me over his bifocals.

    “What made you afraid Frank?”

    “The unknown I guess. I think somebody was in the house this time.”

    I couldn’t move as I stood at the door. My arm could neither knock nor drop back down to my side. I was frozen. Then the upstairs light went off.

    I hear footsteps. They are loud and make a thud with each step. Slowly, the footsteps get louder. I can hear them coming down the stairs in the house. They are getting closer.

    “What happened next?” the doctor asked as he wrote more vigorously on his note pad. “What was your reaction?”

    “I waited.”

    I had to make a decision. I either run or face what is about to come from behind that door. I slowly move backwards. I take slow, tiny steps until I feel my heels drop slightly from the edge of the porch. The footsteps stop just inside the door, only a few feet away from me. I hear the locks on the door disengage and the door knob starts to turn.

    The doctor has my complete attention now. “What came through the door Frank?”

    The door opens slowly and it reveals something I never expected. I was neither ready nor prepared for what stood in the threshold.

    “Doctor, It was…”

    The phone rang suddenly, breaking my train of thought. The doctor ignored it for a second but reluctantly answered it.

    “Okay, Okay send her in.” he said softly to his receptionist.

    “Frank. Your fifteen minutes is up.” He thumbed through his date book. ” I will see you next Thursday. Jenny will validate your parking.” he said as he raised his hand towards the door.

    • Bo Lane

      What was it?! What was it?! Great job keeping my attention. Well played.

    • Joe Bunting

      Wow. Nice Stewart. Not exactly about a camping trip, but you really load up the suspense. I like it.

    • Marianne

      I like the fifteen minutes is up. The fifteen minute thing is like our exercises here , you get started and then have to stop. The setting is really eerie. When you write he can hear the wind ,but not see or feel it, it just gave me the creeps.

    • Stewart

      Sorry for not following directions. I’m not sure why I didn’t see the part about camping. Thanks for the compliments.

      • Joe Bunting

        No problem, Stewart. Just makes things easier. I’m sort of glad you didn’t follow the directions because you wrote this thriller of a piece.

    • claudy

      Although you have an interesting concept, I recommend to be cautious in switching between 1st and 3rd person. It seems that you focus your story in 1st person yet put quotations marks when the narrator talks. Also, using more actions than helping verbs will help your story seem more alive. Nonetheless, it has potential to become a good piece. Best wishes.

  • Cynthia Hartwig

    Liz, I like the connection between you & your mom that makes a grammar post more personal. Good copywriting strategy to personalize and connect people to the Copy Queen who’s writing.

  • Bo Lane

    Alright. About 17 minutes. Here it is:


    Savanna reached into her purse and pulled out the lip balm. Her hands trembled. “This has to be the most disastrous camping trip of our lives,” she said. “Who the hell plans a trip to Greenland in the middle of winter? Wait, I take that back. Who plans a trip to Greenland period?”

    He stopped walking. He turned just slightly to his left where she was standing and looked at her as she stood, smearing lip balm frantically across her face.

    “If you would’ve just listened to me and stopped when I suggested,” she said, “then we wouldn’t be in mess, would we?”

    “Well, if you could just shut up for more than 5 seconds…” he thought.

    “I love you too, Savanna,” he said.

    He started walking again but he pace slower than earlier. She didn’t move. She moved one arm across the other and looked straight as he kept moving.

    “Can’t you just apologize for once?” she yelled.

    He turned around and faced her and started walking backward and said, “Apologize for what exactly? For trying to have a great vacation with my wife? For taking time off work and planning for weeks to have some alone time with you? It was either Greenland or Hawaii. I figured since we’ve been to Hawaii like six times, you’d want to do something different. So, please, feel free to tell me.”

    He stopped. She looked down and then starting moving slowly in his direction.

    “I’m sorry,” she said. “Who would want to go to Hawaii, right? Instead, I’d rather be here with you. Freezing to death. And with a car – a brand new car, mind you – that doesn’t even start because you slammed into the side of a tree in the middle of Nowhere, Greenland!”

    He dropped his head and smiled and waited for her to reach him.

    “It’s alright,” he said, “I forgive you.”

    • Joe Bunting

      Hey Bo. Great scene!

      I like the distance between what he thinks and what he says here, ““Well, if you could just shut up for more than 5 seconds…” he thought. “I love you too, Savanna,” he said.

      And that ending! I love how you reveal what happened and why she’s so mad right at the end of the scene. Plus, Savanna is delightfully sarcastic.

      Nicely done, sir.

      • Bo Lane

        Thanks Joe! This was a fun one. I tried imagining my wife in a situation like that. She has a way with words. :)

        • Joe Bunting

          I read an article about Greenland in National Geographic recently. Apparently their thrilled with the prospect of global warming because it might make their island more habitable.

          • Bo Lane

            Ha! That’ll be the day. The only thing I know about Greenland is from one of my high school teachers. He said “Greenland should’ve been named Iceland and Iceland should’ve been named Greenland.” Apparently someone made a mistake somewhere.

          • Joe Bunting

            It’s true! But Iceland was named by the Vikings to discourage people from moving there. They didn’t want to let on that it was awesome. And Greenland was the opposite. It was named by a guy who was exiled (if I remember correctly). He was hoping to attract a few more friends.

          • Bo Lane

            Maybe that’s the reason why he was exiled. Cause he was an idiot. :)

    • Maeianne

      That’s funny! If my husband even thought about a Greenland vacation I’d have him committed . Good writing IMO.

      • Bo Lane

        Thanks! I tried to stay within the rules so I chose Greenland as part of the Arctic tundra. Not my first choice. Heck, not my second choice either.

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  • Carla Cruz

    One of the issues I often find confusing. Thanks for clearing it up!

  • Deissinger

    I understand the either– or concepts. Separate ideas—right? What if a math question  uses either and or in a question? For example, my students need to look at a bar graph  to answer questions and one of the questions read as follows: How many students like either yellow, green, or purple? My understanding of the question means I should separate each color with the corresponding number on the graph. However, the answer was the total number of the three colors. It seems to me the wording of the math question could mislead the students. What do you think?

    • Corey Comment

      Not only is the question misleading, but the total number of the three colors would be a wrong answer based upon the wording of the question. A way to state the question that would make the total number of the three colors correct: What is the total number of students who like either yellow, green or purple?

  • shelly

    Well, thanks, could you tell me as I remember learning a long ago that when we use neither nor we kinda make sentnces like this: neither he called, nor did he write back. Is is correct ? thanks.

    • epbure

      It’s almost correct! You want to restructure the sentence so that the subject (he) is before the neither. Generally it’s also a good rule of thumb to structure the phrases after the neither and nor similarly. Since the subject is already used before the neither, you can just use the verbs after the neither-nor (he neither called nor wrote back).

  • Hind

    it’s clear now , but can u give me another examples for * Neither *

  • SalJad

    What about when the combination of neither-nor begins a sentence?

    • Peggie

      I’d also like to see an answer to this question.

    • CollinPhallus


      Neither Jackie nor Sandy were able to help their friend Kim solving her problem.

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  • Layla

    Is this correct?
    ”I refuse to answer, nor talk about this matter with you.”

  • Patricia Storbeck

    The Camping Trip from Hell.

    Years ago while still at university a friend invited me on a camping trip. I have never been on a camping trip before and did not know what to expect. The bus was late leaving campus and we arrived five minutes last check-in time. Neither the guy, who was still busy padlocking the gate, nor the camp manager would let us in. ‘The rules are the rules.’ He said.

    After the dreary bus ride and now we had to camp in front of the gate too, and next to the side of a busy road. We did not have tents, as this was hiking trip from camp to camp in the bush veld, South African style. Lions will eat you otherwise, not true, but there are creepy crawlies that will.

    The only time you are able to hike in the bush is in winter. Either you die from heat exhaustion or freeze to death at night, your choice. Guess what? That night we slept outside in our sleeping bags in nearly freezing temperatures. I remember I put on all my clothes and kept my shoes on. A bad idea as feet swell at night and it was nearly impossible to sleep. Before you ask; ‘Why didn’t you cuddle up?’. Well, I’m from a strict Afrikaans family, my dad would have killed me. Those were the days. The mere thought was enough to make me chose to freeze my ass off rather than cuddle with a boy. The friend was not my boyfriend at that time, and even if he was, I still would not have climbed with him into his sleeping bag.

    The next two days was not much better. To my horror we marched 15 miles a day, to get to the next overnight huts in time. No time to stop and take in the pretty views. I was past caring anyway. I marched on.

    The camping trip from hell was the first and the last one, I have ever undertaken. Either I ‘camp’ on Mojito, my boat, or in a hotel. Camping is not for me, pretty as the bush veld in Africa may be.

  • akomei

    Is this correct? with the use of “wouldn’t” being a negative, would “nor” work in the subsequent part of the sentence?

    “I wouldn’t like that either, and nor would I like to see that happen.”

  • danny

    “People have long been divided into dog-lovers and cat-lovers, although I should add that for many people neither animal inspires much emotion either way.” is this correct?

    • Joe Bunting


  • Curtis Bell

    I had a question. Which one is correct?

    Neither you, nor I, know what is going on.


    Neither you, nor I, knows what is going on.

    And why?

    Thank you

    • Joe Bunting

      Neither you, nor I, know what is going on.

      Why? If you took out the neither, making it, “You and I don’t know what is going on.” Knows sounds weird.

      • Guest

        But it says on the rule: Two singular subjects connected by or or nor require a singular verb.

        Gosh, this makes me confuse. :(

        • Steff

          But it works similarly like both. When you use both, it will be : both A and B are great. Thus, in using neither : neither A not B are great.

        • Arun

          What if one between the two subjects is plural ?
          Say for examle,
          Neither them nor I
          Neither I nor them

          In such cases,
          what will the verb form ? Whether singular or plural ?

          • Catherine

            Both wrong. Should be either ‘Neither them nor me’ or ‘Neither I nor they’ (but I expect some would insist on ‘Neither they nor I’ for the second one). In the first one the verb form depends on the subject, not ‘them/me'; in the second there is no 3rd pers sing subject so ‘have’.

        • Just a Guest

          I think the verb agrees with the subject (I know, you know). If it were she/he, one would use “knows”.

  • guest

    The tone in this sentence is neither very
    positive nor very negative.

  • Kristian

    Hi! How are you? Can you help me with this? I don’t know if it’s right: “You don’t have either money or a job”….”You have neither money nor a job”. Thank you :)

  • Cristiana

    Please, is this sentence correct?
    “It’s not allowed nor is it kind of you to…”

    Thank you!

  • ML

    What about this – neither of you is … or neither of you are … `- is it IS or ARE??

    • Garth

      It’s ‘is’. Both ‘either’ and ‘neither’ are singular and require a singular form of the verb in the sentence that follows. For example, ‘either IS correct’, or ‘neither is correct.

    • Harvey

      I think the following is correct” Neither my parents nor my son is here.”
      or “Neither my son nor my parents are here.” ,,, but the former doesn’t sound right.
      The verb uses the subject closest to it.

  • Jennifer

    I couldn’t help but notice that you made a grammatical error in your article. “You’re doing it wrongLY”, not “you’re doing it wrong.” Adjectives (e.g. “wrong”) describe nouns, while adverbs (e.g. “wrongly”) describe verbs (e.g. “doing”).

    • Ged

      that would certainly be the case if the word “wrongly” existed.

      • Richard

        why you’re doing it very badly. You’re doing the wrong way. You’re fucking it. You’re actually doing it like shit.

  • Rose

    Why isn’t neither nor considered a double negative?

  • Erin

    So when someone says “I cannot imagine my life without you”, how should I respond? Me either? Me neither? Something totally different? How do I pair “or” or “nor” with that?

    • Guest

      How about “Me, too”. Less complicated. :)

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  • Arabenglish

    I have noticed recently that the advertisement to turn off your cellphone before a movie may have a grammar mistake and I wanted to figure it out once and for all. The advertisement says “This is not the time nor place.” Is it correct? I believe not.

    • Alice Snow

      Please, please, please answer this. I’m scouring the internet in search of the answer to this because it drives me crazy every. Single. Time. If I’m going to be that irritating grammar geek that emails the theater, I want to make sure I’m correct. Century Theatres/Cinemark, the advertisement in question can be found here:

  • Joel Redbeard Ricklefs

    Thanks for the clarification

  • avidreader

    What about this sentence: “He neither has nor will accept your terms.” please tell me why it is right or wrong. thanks.

  • jason

    Throw in some ellipses with appropriate context, and you can pair either/nor if you want…

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    • Joe Bunting


  • Peggie

    Thank you SO very much! No english professor has ever put it more simply. This really helped me. I am neither displeased nor frustrated with this tutorial. I’m not either disappointed or ignorant of how to use these words any longer. :) -Peggie

    • Joe Bunting


  • Trunkce

    what kind of verb will be used if article occurs with both singular and plural noun in such sentences

  • zeus

    Thanks a lot for helpful tips about either and neither. I something also get mistake with either and neither. Since I read this topic, I can distinguish how to use either and neither.

    • Joe Bunting

      Great! Thanks Zeus!

  • bootsie

    :-) I was using it correctly! :-) Thank you

  • Rachel

    It’s not like you liked me neither

  • average white guy

    this is cool. thanks c u n t

  • Maicol

    is this construction correct : “I realize that not everyone learns at the same speed neither they do with the same methodologies”

    • Joe Bunting

      I don’t think so. Try, “I realize that not everyone learns at the same speed or with the same methodologies.”

  • Love

    can we have either, or, or?

    • Joe Bunting


  • hesham

    Neither bill nor david will go to the trip

  • Madguru

    “To the one who professes to love me and never leave me:You are not the first nor will be the last to say so.” Is this correct?

  • cynthia334

    thanks to everyone commenting and also to the organizers of this site because this has helped my marriage, I can’t believe my husband changed just as he promised, so i must testify too. I was having troubles in my marriage and i was almost giving up because my partner wouldn’t find anything good in me anymore and it looked like we were not meant to be because he hardly talk to me or even touches me . Out of frustration i came online to see if there’s anything i can do to help my situation and last week I saw a post on how a lady saved her marriage through the help of a great man and i decided to try him because i was going through hell as me and my husband were like neighbors under the same roof . i contacted him as the testifier gave away his email and the man said he could help me. i thought maybe it will take a long time but within 48 hours after he finished his work my husband came home apologizing for the way he hurt me something he would never do normally even if it was obvious he was wrong. seriously i have nothing more to say other than thank you great man. if your marriage is failing or its a mess and you want to save it please don’t give up this really works out here is the email i used to contact him i am sure he can help of a truth he really helps again his email his

  • Kyla Alyssa Samia

    Either and or: You either stay there or join with us.
    Neither and nor: ( i still don’t get it?)
    Please help me :(

  • Sergiy Zed

    A brilliant post! There is a book in which you can find this case looked at a different angle: ‘Most common mistakes non-native speakers of English make’.