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I saw this line in a book:

I have either expressed myself very badly, or you are purposely mistaking me.

I suppose it can be corrected-if it's wrong-like this:

Either I have expressed myself very badly, or you are purposely mistaking me.

Is it me or the book missing something on the usage of 'either' ?

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    IMO the either should be first. By placing it after, as in "I have either ..." the sentence should lead on to the other thing you did, but that is not its construction. The alternatives are (a) what you did, and (b) what the listener did. Either (a) or (b). Jun 2, 2021 at 11:58
  • Note that it should be "purposefully" rather than "purposely" Jun 2, 2021 at 15:57
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    @anotherdave I don't think. "Purposely" means intentionally/deliberately. On the other hand, "purposefully" means with a purpose. "Purposely" makes more sense here. You can't really derive a purpose by thinking wrong of the words of the other person, but you can annoy them by deliberate measures. Jun 2, 2021 at 16:23
  • I agree with you @DhanishthaGhosh. However, I do hear people saying "purposefully" and "rightfully" where I would say "purposely" and "rightly".
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 2, 2021 at 17:47

2 Answers 2

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I have either expressed myself very badly, or you are purposely mistaking me.

Either I have expressed myself very badly, or you are purposely mistaking me.

The two sentences mean the same thing. The first version breaks the prescriptive rule about how "either"/"or" is meant to be used, so prescriptivists insist on the second version, which is certainly better style.

However, sentences like the first one are very commonly produced by native speakers, especially in off-the-cuff speech or informal writing, and no one misinterpets them. (Perhaps some sentences of this type create ambiguity, but certainly your example doesn't suffer from it.) A lot of the time, the mistake goes unnoticed.

Lexico has this to say:

In good English writing style, it is important that either and or are correctly placed so that the structures following each word balance and mirror each other. Thus, sentences such as Either I accompany you or I wait here and I'm going to buy either a new camera or a new video are correct, whereas sentences such as Either I accompany you or John and I'm either going to buy a new camera or a video are not well-balanced sentences and should not be used in written English.

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  • Superb answer! As a foreigner, I feel your comment is gold. Thanks!
    – Kim
    Jun 3, 2021 at 0:52
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Well, "Either - Or" is a correlative and "Either" in this context is used to to give emphasis on the exclusive meaning of "Or", so your assumption is correct.

The first sentence has a different meaning, we call it semantic factor; however, I wouldn't use the first sentence.

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  • Can you tell the different meaning of the first one?
    – Kim
    Jun 3, 2021 at 1:03

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