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How to Use Distributives- Distributives- Both, Either, Neither for English

Distributives- Both, Either, Neither

The English Language


The Explanation

‘Both’, ‘either’ and ‘neither’ are the distributive determiners that signify the distribution between a pair of objects and can only be used to refer to the countable nouns. Generally, we do not use these words to refer to indefinite nouns or groups of three or more individuals.

In this section, we are going to discuss the distributive determiners ‘both’, ‘either’, ‘neither’ in detail.

Using the distributive "Both"

1. The distributive ‘Both’ refer to the whole/complete pair and is equivalent to “one and the other” in a particular sentence

e.g.:

  • Both girls are studying Psychology

2. The distributive ‘Both’ can be used with plural nouns on its own, or it can be followed by "of", with or without an article.

e.g.:

  • Both my parents know German and French

  • Both of my parents knew German and French

3. When followed by a plural pronoun, ‘both’ is mandatorily separated from the pronoun by "of". It cannot be used with singular nouns since it refers to two things.

e.g.:

  • Both of us like mountaineering

  • I told both of them to take it easy



Using the distributive "Either"

1. The distributive ‘Either’ is positive in connotation and when used alone refers to one of the two members of the pair. It is equivalent to "one or the other" because it refers to just one member of a pair.

e.g.:

  • I can come on either day

  • He can stay in either city

2. The distributive ‘either’ must be used before a singular noun. It can also be used with a plural noun or pronoun if followed by "of".

e.g.:

  • Either of you can write the note

  • Either of the rooms will be fine

3. The distributive ‘either’ can also be used with or in a sentence that talks about each member of the pair in turn. In such cases, although the meaning remains the same, here ‘either’ does not function as a distributive but as a conjunction.

e.g.:

  • We can watch either a movie or play

  • They will come on either weekday or Sunday


Using the distributive "Neither"

  1. The distributive ‘neither’ is used in a negative connotation and when used alone refers to the whole pair. It is equivalent to "not one or the other". Since it refers to just one member of a pair, neither must be used before a singular noun.

e.g.:

  • Neither book is any good.

  • Neither day is suitable for the match.


  1. The distributive neither can also be used with a plural noun or pronoun if followed by "of".

e.g.:

  • Neither of us was interested in attending the event

  • Neither of the children wanted to go to the party


  1. The distributive ‘neither’ can also be used with nor in a sentence that talks about each member of the pair in turn. In such cases, neither functions more as a conjunction rather than distributive without changing the meaning.

e.g.:

  • It is neither cold nor hot

  • She is neither fair nor black.











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