The pairing Neither/Nor plays a negative role, so take care to avoid an unintended double negative. For example:
- He didn't find neither the map nor the key.
Either/Or and Neither/Nor (Beware Double Negatives)The pairings either/or and neither/nor can be used to group two people or things. Although not a major grammatical error, the grouping of more than two things is frowned upon by followers of some style conventions.
- Neither the forwards nor the scrumhalf, all of whom were within 10 metres of the tackle, nor the crowd appealed for a foul. (three things grouped)
- I could neither laugh nor cry.
- Either the clerk or the secretary has the keys to the Rover. (Note that has is correct. Using have would be wrong. See the lesson Either/Or Singular or Plural?)
- The clerk or the secretary has the keys to the Rover. (You can often omit the word either.)
- He did not find the key either on or under the mat.
Beware Double NegativeThe pairing neither/nor plays a negative role in the sentence. Be careful not to use a double negative.
- Adam did not find the key neither on nor under the mat. (This is a double negative.)
- He did not mention neither the flooding nor the landslide. (This is a double negative.)
- He mentioned neither the flooding nor the landslide.
- He did not mention either the flooding or the landslide.
A Double Negative Is Not Always a MistakeRemember, a double negative is not always a mistake, but it might change the intended meaning. For example:
- I haven't got no money. (This is a double negative. It means I have money, which is almost certainly not the message the speaker wanted to convey.)
- She is not unattractive. (This is also a double negative. It could mean She is attractive or She is not ugly. In this case, the positive sentiment is probably what the speaker wanted to convey.)
What Is a Double Negative?The two sentences below are examples of double negatives:
- David doesn't know nothing.
- David did not see no car.
- My kids don't believe in no Santa Clause. (This means they do believe in Santa.)
Either Goes with Or and Neither with Nor – You Cannot Mix ThemThe pairings either/or and neither/nor are known as correlative conjunctions.
You cannot mix them. In other words, either cannot pair with nor, and neither cannot pair with or.
(Note: It is common to omit either from the either/or pairing.)