Either/or and neither/nor - beware double negatives
 
Neither is paired with nor. (Do not forget that this pairing plays a negative role in the sentence, so take care to avoid an unintended double negative.)
Either is paired with or. (Sometimes, the word either is omitted.)
 

Either/Or and Neither/Nor

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 some style conventions.

Examples:

  • 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: has is correct / 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 leave out the word either.)
  • He did not find the key either on or under the mat.

Beware Double Negative

The 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 Mistake

Remember, 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 means She is attractive. In this case, it will be the message the speaker wanted to convey.)
 
DOUBLE NEGATIVE? 

The two sentences below are examples of double negatives:

  • David doesn't know nothing.
  • David did not see no car.

Remember, two negatives make a positive. The examples above are not grammatically incorrect, but they probably do not mean what the originator intended.

  • My kids don't believe in no Santa Clause.
    (This means they do believe in Santa.)
 

 
EITHER/OR OR NEITHER/NOR – YOU CANNOT MIX THEM

The 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.
 


See also:

Double negatives
Either/or plural or singular verb?
List of easily confused words