Either … OrEither is a singular adjective that means one or the other but not both. Either represents one noun or pronoun doing one thing and the other noun or pronoun doing another. This makes either positive because what is occurring is true. Because it is positive, either can be paired with or but not with the negative word nor.
Example: He wanted to draw either in charcoal or in colored pencil. (He wanted to draw with one or the other, not both, so either is used correctly here.)
In addition to an either needing an or, the phrase that comes after the either must be parallel to what comes after the or. Therefore, the following example is incorrect:
Example: He wanted to draw either in charcoal or colored pencil.
A preposition comes immediately after either, so a preposition needs to immediately follow or. However, instead there is an adjective, making the sentence not parallel and grammatically incorrect.
When constructing either/or sentences, it is important to have subject/verb agreement. Often writers have the wrong agreement because the sentence sounds right when they read it, but in fact the sentence is not proper English.
Example: I think either this dress or that one look best on you. (Although this sentence seems right when you read it, it should actually be as follows: I think either this dress or that one looks best on you.)
If the noun that comes after the or is singular, then the verb should be singular. If the noun that comes after the or is plural, then the verb should be plural. In other words, subject/verb agreement is between the noun closest to the verb and the verb.
Example: Either mice or a rat eat food in our pantry. (Mice is plural, but it does not affect the verb. Rat is singular, so the verb must be singular. However, many people would say that the sentence, though grammatically correct, sounds weird. An easy fix is to flip the two choices and make the verb plural: Either a rat or mice are in our pantry.)
Determine if either is used correctly in the senteces below. Correct any wrong sentences.
1. Emily wanted either a doll or a stuffed animal for her birthday.
2. Either the dogs or the cat eats food out of the trash.
3. Jeremy’s lunch is either a sandwich or a Lean Cuisine.
4. Mom thinks either dad or the neighbors drives too fast on our road.
5. Darlene teaches either English or math.
2. incorrect; a plural subject needs a plural verb, so it should be “eat”
4. incorrect; a plural subject needs a plural verb, so it should be “drive”