I have some doubts with either, could you check with I am saying the sentence bellow correctly ?

Is the following sentence grammatically correct?

"I think you are mistaken, sir. Her maiden name is not either Atkins or Perkins. I am absolutely sure of that. "

I don't know if I can "is not either..." or if I should say: Her maiden name is not Atkins either Perkins.


Your alternative "Her maiden name is not Atkins either Perkins" is definitely wrong. The original is weird, and likely incorrect although I guess it might function in certain obscure contexts:

"I am completely sure her maiden name is either Atkins or Perkins."

"Unfortunately, that's entirely wrong yet again. Her maiden name is not 'either Atkins or Perkins.' It's Xian-Do, an esteemed Chinese family."

Normally, you use constructs

  • either X or y for positive choices (one of two)
  • neither X nor y for negative choices (both are wrong).

In your case the sequence should be:

Her maiden name is neither Atkins nor Perkins

You can also use 'neither' and 'either' to refer back to earlier choices:

I think her name was Atkins or Perkins, but if I were to decide, I must say either sounds likely.

I think her name was Atkins or Perkins, but if I were to decide, I must say neither sounds incorrect.

I think her name was Atkins or Perkins, but if I were to decide, I must say both sound likely.

"not either" might seem like shorthand for "neither" but "neither" is usually applied without alternatives: "neither X nor Y", period. "not either" will be usually in construct of alternative: "not (either X or Y) but Z" - and even then this construct is fairly rare.


As others have said, the correct form is "neither Atkins nor Perkins", however as I said in a comment to @oerkelens answer, the rules at play in using either, or, neither, and nor, aren't as simple as at first sight (well, at my first sight anyway). So, for what it's worth:

A or B

usually means A, or B, or both. Then, by contrast:

Either A or B

usually means one of, but only one of, A or B -- i.e. not both. For those familiar with digital logic, either/or is an "exclusive" or -- i.e. an XOR

By extrapolation then, one might think that the following:

Neither A nor B

is an exclusive nor -- i.e. an XNOR.

But that would in turn imply that the following:

A nor B

could be regarded as a regular (non-exclusive) nor -- i.e. a NOR. But now, returning from the austere purity of digital logic back into the rough and tumble of natural language we see that is not the case. The above "regular (non-exclusive) nor" form of "A nor B" is pretty much non-idiomatic. I can't think of an example where a native English speaker would say "A nor B" without preceding it with "neither".

The overall rule seems to be that when using "or", the use of an initial "either" is optional. Use it to make the "or" exclusive (i.e. one and only one of the choices can be true), and omit it otherwise. However, when using "nor", the use of an initial "neither" is mandatory but it does not imply an exclusive nor. In fact, as far as I can see, there is no such thing as a (simply stated) xnor in English. Hmmm -- need to think about that...

So in summary, by way of examples:

This is idiomatic:

A cow can be regarded as an animal OR a milk machine (and it could be seen as both).

This is also idiomatic:

A blackberry is EITHER a fruit OR a vegetable (but it cannot be both).

And this is idiomatic too:

A cheesecake is NEITHER a fruit NOR a vegetable.

But this is not:

A cow can be regarded as a cheesecake NOR a fruit.

Nor, for good measure, is this:

A cow can be regarded as NEITHER a cheesecake OR a fruit

  • I deleted what appeared to be an exact duplicate of this answer. Something may have gone wrong while you were editing. Please flag for moderator attention if there is still an issue. – ColleenV parted ways Jun 18 '17 at 15:59

How about simply using neither or nor?

Her maiden name is Atkins nor Perkins.

Her maiden name is neither Atkins or Perkins.

If you insist on using either, you could use not either the way you did, but that sounds weird, since not either is replaced by neither. You would have the same problem with or or nor:

  • Her name is Atkins not or Perkins.

Her name is Atkins nor Perkins.

If you just want to use either, do not choose a negative statement to use it in. The negative of either is neither, not not either.

You could say:

Her name is either Atkins or Perkins.

But that would obviously change the meaning of the sentence!

Edit after your comment:

Her maiden name is not Atkins. And I am absolutely sure it is not Perkins, either.

Is a great sentence. I am quite sure some people would use neither, but that would be wrong, as "not" and "neither" would lead to a double negative. You could say:

And I am sure that neither it is Perkins.

But I like that less...

(And yes, some people will say you that it should be one sentence, no period before the "And". However, since this is reported speech, I like the indicated pause - it shows the speaker is thinking a bit in between. "It is not Atkins. (pause) And not Perkins either.")

  • Thank you!! What about this construction: Her maiden name is not Atkins. And I am absolutely sure it is not Perkis, either. Should I say either or neither in the end of the sentence? – user63598 Jan 30 '14 at 10:31
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    The first two examples are not correct; you need both "neither" and "nor" in this case for it to make sense: "Her maiden name is neither Atkins nor Perkins." – Steve Melnikoff Jan 30 '14 at 12:26
  • I am aware that neither and nor are often used together, but since both are negative, it does feel like a double negation to me. Whether to use "or" or "nor" after "neither" is open for debate, but stating that "A nor B" is incorrect is a very bold statement... – oerkelens Jan 30 '14 at 12:41
  • @oerkelens: it may be bold, but it also happens to be true :-) For example, see here and here (and related questions). – Steve Melnikoff Jan 30 '14 at 16:02
  • I am not sure about those references, but I admit I can only find one place that tells me "nor" can be used on its own, and it's archaic : 5. Archaic. (used without a preceding neither, the negative force of which is understood): He nor I was there. thefreedictionary.com/NOR I guess the double negative has been used so much it has become grammatical :( – oerkelens Jan 30 '14 at 16:15

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