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I have no idea which of the following is correct (or at least, better to use):

  1. I am not going to hurt you, but I am not going to protect you either.
  2. I am neither going to hurt you nor protect you.
  3. I am not going to hurt you, but I am not going to protect you neither.

Is there a general rule for not confusing between nether and either? I remember from my English classes that either is for positive sentences and neither is otherwise, but does it literally means a sentence with positive and negative verbs or what?

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Using "neither" can be tricky, so in general, you can stick with "either" and never use "neither". Even native speakers frequently use it a way that goes against formal grammar rules.

Your first example is fine, and again you can stick with using "either" this way, even if the context is negative.

For lunch I'm either going to have spaghetti, or I'm not going to eat at all.

As in your second example, the "standard" way ensure you use neither correctly is to pair it with "nor". Just like you would use "either ... or" to create a list or choice, you can use "neither ... nor" to create a negative list (or lack of choice).

For lunch I'm going to have either spaghetti or a sandwich.

For lunch I'm going to have neither spaghetti nor a sandwich.

Your third sentence is an example of vernacular -- this construction shows up in various dialects, but it's not "formal" English and so I would recommend against using it. However, the only thing wrong with it is where you place the "neither", which should be in the middle, and you have to reorder the subject/verb pair:

I am not going to hurt you, but neither am I not going to protect you.

I don't know if there is any actual rule for this. It may just be another English structure that you can memorize and use as needed. Other examples:

I'm not going to have spaghetti for lunch, but neither will I have a sandwich.

She isn't at home, but neither is she out on a date, so I don't know where she is.

It's New Years Eve! I haven't been invited to any parties, but neither am I just going to stay home. I think I'll go find a nice crowded bar and celebrate there.

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  • Ok, May I ask another tiny question. Regardless of being formal or standard, do all the 3 questions mean the same? and for second example, didnt I miss a to?
    – lonesome
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 16:12
  • @lonesome Yes, they all have the same meaning, and no, you didn't miss a "to" in the second example. "I am neither going to hurt you nor protect you" is grammatical.
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 18:04
  • Alright, I just thought maybe that sentence is wrong. The good thing is that i was wrong about being wrong.
    – lonesome
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 13:20
  • "I am not going to hurt you, but neither am I not going to protect you." I think in rephrasing you left in an unneeded "not" which changes the meaning of the sentence and makes the grammar significantly less standard" Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 23:48

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