Let's say, in a question on this site, I am giving you two sentences which I think probably carry the same meaning and I want to ask you if I can use either of them interchangeably. I feel like if I say,

  • "Can I use either of them"


  • "Are/Is either of them okay",

it could be understood that I am asking if any of the two sentences I gave can be used while I am trying to ask if both of the sentences can be used. Do you think I can use the word, "either," in these questions, or do I have to use the word, "both," as in

  • "Can I use both of them"


  • "Are both of them usable"?
  • In your context, Can I use both? would be an "unusual" choice, because it strongly implies actually using both. As in - if you're asked whether you want tea or coffee, and you answer Both, by rights you should be given two drinks (one tea and one coffee). Whereas if you'd answered Either, you should be given just one (randomly selected at the behest of the asker) drink. – FumbleFingers May 8 at 17:15

Imagine that you are looking for an item in a shop and the shopkeeper shows you two that might fit your purpose.

To say Can I use either of them (for the purpose)?, asks whether both would fit the purpose but implies that you want just one of them.

Can I use both of them (for the purpose)? again asks whether both would fit the purpose but implies that you might want to purchase both, although it's ambiguous.

Are they both usable? simply asks whether both would fit the purpose.

When you ask Is either usable, you mean ** Is either one usable** so the singular is is required.

PS: The choice of verb after neither can be more complicated. See: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/10304/which-is-correct-neither-is-or-neither-are


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