Today we will learn about choices, and how English speakers typically talk about choices in English. When we get given a choice in a discussion, it’s handy to know what vocabulary a native English speaker would use to respond.
We’ve covered more English grammar topics than we usually do, so this time we’ve made the topic an easy one.
If we were talking about this in a conversation we might say, "Would you like an easy grammar lesson or a hard lesson?" A native English speakers answer might be "Either" or "Neither".
So today we discuss what these English words mean, when you would use them, the differences in UK and US and we use a lot of other English vocabulary to make it interesting.
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Hi and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. We are here to give you English speaking conversation topics. We’re here to help you learn to speak English, fluently, naturally and most importantly with an automatic understanding, just like an English speaker, so that you can just enjoy what you hear and not worry about translating.
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So we’ve done some quite difficult grammar recently – how about we do a simpler piece of English grammar today? You’ll perhaps know this one already, but nothing wrong with getting in some practice, if you do. And if you aren’t as familiar as you could be, or you don’t know it at all, then this is good too.
So what about when we say in English ‘either…..or’ or ‘neither….nor’. If you’re not familiar with those words, or you haven’t understood them first thing, then ‘either’ is spelt E-I-T-H-E-R and ‘neither’ is spelt N-E-I-T-H-E-R. Just a word on pronunciation first of all. On the whole, US English speakers would say ‘either’ and ‘neither’ but in the UK, we might also say ‘either’ and ‘neither’, but both are OK for UK speakers. ‘Either’ or ‘either’, ‘neither’ or ‘neither’ – it doesn’t matter. So it’s one of those situations where you can choose! Which one do you prefer? And as I’m doing this podcast, I’ll probably alternate, I’ll go from one pronunciation to the other and back again, possibly without realising. Or will I stick with one? Let’s see.
So you can use the words ‘either’ and ‘neither’ without following with an ‘or’ or a ‘nor’, but usually the meaning of the sentence will mean that they do come along, they are there somewhere. So you would use ‘either’ where there are options, where there are two or more choices. So you might say to the small child that you’re looking after, ‘Either you can have an apple or an orange’. (But you can’t have both!).
A photograph of colorful sweets. Lollipops and candies. Used to help explain how English speakers give and take choices.
So ‘either’ is used to talk about options in the future. It might be the near future like the apple or orange, which is perhaps going to be chosen and eaten fairly quickly – or you might be talking about a year ahead. ‘Where shall we go for our holiday next year?’ ‘Well, let’s either go to Spain or to Italy’. So ‘either….or’ is used when we’re talking about what is possible. And there may be two possibilities – ‘either left or right’, or there may be more possibilities – so then ‘either red or blue or green or purple’. So it indicates a choice or some kind, two or more alternatives – or it shows that we don’t know yet, so it might be two or more possibilities. ‘Where is my cat? He is either hiding in the house, or he’s gone outside’. So ‘either….or’ being used because right now, we don’t know which is true.
And when do you use ‘neither...nor’? Well, you would use ‘neither…..nor’ where you might expect there would be choices, where there might be possibilities – but you that there aren’t. And again, it’s often used where there are two things which aren’t possible, but there’s no restriction. So you might say ‘There is neither bread nor cake in the cupboard’. But you could say ‘It’s neither my uncle, nor my auntie nor my cousin, nor my grandmother who’s done it’. So really ‘neither’ means ‘not either’, which you also hear sometimes too.
So a couple more examples of ‘either….or’
- You can either have a glass of white wine or a cold beer.
- My sister works either in the bar or the restaurant.
- He has neither the intelligence nor the ability to succeed in business. (Sorry that’s a bit harsh!)
- My pet is neither a cat nor a dog – he’s a lizard!
There are times when we use ‘either’ and ‘neither’ without an ‘or’ or a ‘nor’. So you might hear:-
‘There were cars parked on either side of the street’ which means ‘there were cars parked on both sides of the street’.
‘I don’t have any tea and I don’t have any coffee either’ is another way of say ‘I have neither tea nor coffee’.
‘Neither of my daughters drink alcohol’ which means that ‘My elder daughter doesn’t drink alcohol and my younger daughter doesn’t drink alcohol’.
Or you may hear a conversation which goes
‘I don’t have any money at the moment’ and the other person says ‘Neither do I’ or ‘Me neither’ or they could also say ‘I don’t either’. And this is a quick way of saying ‘I also don’t have any money at the moment’. It’s interesting that the pronunciation is more commonly ‘Me neither’, but it’s not wrong to say ‘Me neither’.
‘I haven’t been to Japan’ and the other person says ‘Neither have I’ or ‘Me neither’ or ‘I haven’t either’. So in that last one, it’s ‘either’ because the ‘not’, the negative is contained in the ‘haven’t’.
Solve The Maths Problem To Download Podcast & Transcript
You might need to think about that one – but these are sentences, meanings which are used all the time in English conversation and English speakers would understand these meanings automatically.
So I hope that helps with ‘either’ and ‘neither’ or ‘either’ and ‘neither’ if you prefer? Learn English speaking and improve your spoken English with Adept English.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.