Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Neither and Nor's Infinite Playlist

"No Woman No Cry" Bob Marley
"Something I Can Never Have" NIN
"It's Too Late" Carole King
"You've Lost that Loving Feeling" The Righteous Brothers
"I Hate Everything About You" 3 Days Grace
"Lost Cause" Beck

See how negative neither and nor are. The music they chose for their playlist shows that are not open to any possibilities.

They have neither a woman nor a loving feeling.

Either and or’s playlist, on the other hand, shows that they are open to lots of possibilities:

"I Will Survive" Gloria Gaynor
"Eye of the Tiger" Survivor
"Beautiful Day" U2
"What a Wonderful Word" Louis Armstrong
"I Believe I Can Fly" R. Kelly
"We Will Rock You" Queen

The will either survive or rock you.

The duo either/or offers a choice between two possibilities while neither/nor negates both possibilities. And, like you will never buy a Hall and Garfunkel album or one from Simon and Oates, either sticks with or and neither sticks with nor.

But, when either and or separate, they will get a little negative if paired up with a negative verb.

Correct: I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You Either
Incorrect: I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You
Correct: I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That…or That)
Incorrect: I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That…nor That)

Pairing neither and nor with a negative verb is just too negative.

However, here is the most common error we make with either/or and neither/nor:

Either “Total Eclipse of the Heart” or “Like a Virgin” are the best karaoke songs.

It might not look wrong, but we have to remember that when we use either/or and neither/nor, we are talking about one or the other of the possibilities presented- not both. Therefore,we use a singular verb. The are should become an is and the songs should become song:

Either “Total Eclipse of the Heart” or “Like a Virgin” is the best karaoke song.

But, of course, there is an exception:

If the word closest to the verb is plural, then the verb remains plural:

Neither the candy nor the flowers are enough to win me back; I need to be serenaded with "In Your Eyes.”

But, if we switched around candy and flowers, the verb would go back to being singular because candy is singular:

Neither the flowers nor the candy is enough to win me back; I need to be serenaded with "In Your Eyes."

Okay- call me.


WalksLikeAnEgyptian said...

Mkay, gimmie yo numbaaaaaa!

Food in Literature and Film said...

Great stuff! Neither me nor my students will ever be confused again!

Missed Periods said...


WalksLikeAnEgyptian said...

Haha, you think you're slick, don'tcha?