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‘Both’, ‘neither’ or ‘either’ | English Vocabulary

“Both”, “neither”, and “either” are terms used to describe that 0, 1 or 2 of something (or someone) will be addressed in some way. However, in addition to just referring to a number, these words emphasize a relationship to two; that is:

  • [two of two] “both”
  • [any one of two] “either”; or
  • [zero of two] “neither” 

are being referred to.


Both”: Referring to 2 of 2

  • Both of the children do well at school.” (Not just one of the two)
  • “I’d like to wear both blue and pink tomorrow.” (Not just blue, and not just pink).
  • “She enjoys both school and playing sports.” (She doesn’t prefer one over the other).

Either”: Referring to any 1 of the 2

  • “He’ll eat either chocolate or vanilla–whatever you have.” (Both are fine for him; any one of the two).
  • “Most 24 year olds want to focus either on career or marriage, but not both.” (Choose one of the two lifestyles).
  • Either way, I’ll be going home at 12.” (No matter what happens, I’m going home at 12).

“Neither: Referring to 0 of the 2

  • Neither of us want to go shopping today.” (None of the options offered).
  • “Should I take this to the kitchen, to the balcony or neither?” (None of the options offered).
  • “Germany allows babies born to be legally categorized as neither male nor female, but “indeterminate”.


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