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Distributives

In this article, we will be learning about distributives. Distributives are placed before a noun or noun phrase that they are quantifying. For example -  neither, nor, either, or, both, all, each & many others.

Neither.. nor & Either.. or

Let’s learn more about distributives like “neither…nor” & “either... or”.

  1. Both “neither..nor” and “either..or” are used when referring to two choices.
  2. “Neither..nor” is used to say “NO” about both choices.
  3. “Either..or” is used to say “YES” about one out of the two choices.

 

Practice Question

Question 1:

__________ Tim __________ Bill was strong enough to lift the suitcase. They needed help.

  1. neither..nor
  2. either..or
  3. either..nor
  4. neither..or

Answer:

(1) neither..nor

Explanation: 

The correct answer to this question is option (1) - neither..nor as both Tim and Bill were not “strong enough to lift the suitcase”. Also, options 3 & 4 are grammatically incorrect as either is never used with nor and neither is never used with or. They cannot be interchanged and will always be used together.

 

Common Mistakes

Neither..nor can be very very tricky. Plenty of students struggle with “neither..nor” questions because there is not just one area where you are prone to making mistakes. There are actually a few things grammar-wise that need to be looked at. Let's examine some of the common mistakes below and the rules which will help you avoid making such mistakes.

  1. Wrong Subject Verb Agreement

Example: 

Neither Terry nor his friends was happy.

This is an example of a subject verb agreement error. Here, the wrong verb "was" is used, which does not agree with the subject. Here is where students make mistakes. There are two subjects - Terry and his friends mentioned. Which should we look at to determine if the singular or plural verb should be used? 

To help with this, we need to understand the Rule Of Proximity. The verb used depends on the subject closest to it. In this case, the subject is “his friends” - plural. Hence the plural verb “were” should be used.

So, the correct sentence would be:

Neither Terry nor  his friends were happy.

To prevent making this mistake, we recommend reading our article titled "Write with Confidence: 35 Essential Subject-Verb Rules."

  1. Triple Negative

Example: 

Neither Terry  nor his friends were not happy.

Be mindful! - “neither” is negative and “nor” is also negative, which means Terry was not happy, and his friends were also not happy. Including another negative at the end of the sentence - "not happy", then negates the original meaning and in fact reverses it so that the implication is that Terry and his friends WERE happy. To prevent such mistakes, we need to change the 3rd negative to a positive, and the correct sentence would be as follows:

Neither Terry  nor his friends were happy.

 

Practice Questions

Question 2:

Gilly does not want to explore the woods. Her twin brothers do not either.

Neither Gilly nor her twin brothers wants to explore the woods.

  1. Correct
  2. Incorrect

Answer:

(2) Incorrect

Explanation:

The sentence written above is incorrect as the singular verb "wants" is used. As per the rule of proximity, we need to look at the subject that is closest to the verb distance-wise is "twin brothers”. Hence the correct verb to be used here is the plural "want".

 

Question 3:

James does not visit his grandparents frequently. His cousins do not either.

Neither James nor his cousins do not visit his grandparents frequently.

  1. Correct
  2. Incorrect

Answer:

(2) Incorrect

Explanation:

The sentence written above is incorrect as here we aren’t observing  the rule of Triple Negatives. There are currently three negatives in the sentence - "neither", "nor", and "do not". Also, the pronoun used is incorrect in the sentence provided above. As the grandparents don't belong to only one group, the correct pronoun to be used instead of "his" is "their". So, the correct sentence will be:

Neither James nor his cousins visit their grandparents frequently.

 

Question 4:

Almost __________ house in this estate has a luxury car parked in front of it.

  1. some
  2. each
  3. every
  4. all

Answer:

(3) every

Explanation: 

The correct answer to this question is option (3) - every. The answer to this question cannot be "each". “Every” is ALWAYS USED with adverbs like “almost” and “practically”.

 

Test Your Concepts

Answer the following questions based on the concepts we’ve covered in this article. If you get stuck, revisit the relevant section to revise the concepts.

Question 1:

__________ Penny __________ Herbert was able to attend the function as they were down with the cold.

  1. neither..nor
  2. either..or
  3. either..nor
  4. neither..or

 

Question 2:

__________ the gray __________ brown cat was responsible for this mess! It was definitely one of them.

  1. neither..nor
  2. either..or
  3. either..nor
  4. neither..or

 

Question 3:

Practically __________ student in this class scored an A for English!

  1. all
  2. some
  3. each
  4. every

 


 

Continue Learning
Grammar Cloze Exercises Vocabulary MCQ Part 1
Tenses Relative Pronouns
Descriptive Writing Techniques Composition Writing
Synthesis & Transformation Vocabulary MCQ Part 2
Vocabulary Cloze Editing
Comprehension Cloze Quantifiers
Distributives Guess The Lyrics
Spelling Bee The Final Transformation
Vocabulary Cloze 2 Comprehension
Grammar Cloze Distributives 2
Prepositions  

 

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