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I was writing a comment the other day when I wrote a sentence similar to the one below:

You can choose one of either (Pizza, Mac and Cheese, or Spaghetti).

Obviously the choices are made-up, but the point is, this sentence should mean the same exact thing as:

You can choose either Pizza, or Mac n' Cheese, or Spaghetti.

Right?

I've heard that 'either' can be used for more than two choices, so this should be correct, at least, to my knowledge anyway.

But is it? Would you say it differently? How natural does it sound?

  • I would use "You can choose one of each" and avoid either altogether for non-binary choices. – Robusto Jan 12 at 21:05
  • Yes I know that, and it's what I would use, but what about 'either'? is it not correct? – FroztC0 Jan 12 at 21:11
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    Wait, @Robusto, are you saying he should write: "You can choose one of each (Pizza, Mac and Cheese, or Spaghetti)."?... Or "You can choose each Pizza, or Mac n' Cheese, or Spaghetti."? I hope not. The second choice does not sound like good English, and the first one sounds like idiomatic English (although maybe not perfectly grammatical), but its meaning is different from what his original sentences were. [It means you choose spaghetti, mac-n-cheese, and pizza.] Also, rightly or wrongly, we use "either" for more than 2 choices "alla-time". – Lorel C. Jan 12 at 22:09
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    I'm even more confused now lol, anyway, see I thought the same thing, that saying 'each' would just mean picking all three choices, but since I'm not a native speaker, I didn't know that. – FroztC0 Jan 12 at 22:15
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    I would use “one of the following” there instead. – Robusto Jan 12 at 22:52
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If you are one of those people who defer to etymology, then 'either' comes from the Old English ǽghwæðer, "each of two" (i.e. "both"). By the 13th century, the meaning had shifted to its present sense of "one of two". So the word has a history of gradual change. Shakespeare wrote "They say there is divinity in odd numbers, either in nativity, chance, or death" (The Merry Wives of Windsor" c.1597) (an odd number of items, naturally). The "one of two" meaning is relaxed, according to a number of dictionaries, when introducing a list (like the food items in the question), but tends to be more strictly applied when using 'either' as an adjective - "I'll marry either girl, Mary or Jane", or a pronoun - "either [of them] will do". There is a similar story for "neither". The safest advice is to stick to "either of two", and use e.g. "one of" for more than two items.

Either (Grammarphobia)
Either (Etymonline)

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