“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”.