2

In either ... or structure, if the two verbs are of the same type, it's easy to figure out the position of "either" and "or", for example.

On Sunday evenings, I either work out or relax.

Both "either" and "or" are just before the verbs.

But if one verb is a linking verb and the other is an ordinary verb, where should either be placed?

  1. Below are the articles that I either am interested in or have read before. (Before both verbs)
  2. Below are the articles that I am either interested in or have read before. (After linking verbs but before ordinary verbs)
  3. Below are the articles that either I am interested in or I have read before. (Just repeat the subject once more and put "either/or" at the head of the two clauses)
5
  • I'd just rather take the third form just to be conservative (because the first looks unnatural to me and the second may be wrong and I haven't confirmed if it is). I'd love to know the answer to this question too. Jan 15 at 5:57
  • Are you asking about the structure "either...or", or do you want to know the most natural way to express this idea? The most natural way does not include the word "either".
    – gotube
    Jan 15 at 7:02
  • In my opinion, (1) and (3) work but (2) doesn't. Imagine numbering the two options. "...the articles that I am either (i) interested in or (ii) have read before." You can't say "I am have read before." Jan 15 at 9:29
  • @gotube I'm actually interested in both of them Jan 15 at 21:17
  • @ProtossShuttle On ELL, we're only allowed to ask one question at a time. Asking about 1) the rules for "either...or" AND 2) the best way to phrase a particular sentence counts as two questions in one. In this case, I don't think it's going to cause problems, but in future, please limit yourself to asking about just one thing per question. If you have more than one question about the same sentence, ask two separate questions. This is encouraged, especially if you mention in one that you've asked a different question about the same sentence elsewhere, so people don't think it's a duplicate.
    – gotube
    Jan 16 at 0:51
2

A properly formed sentence with the structure either ... or conjoins two equivalent things. For example, they could be two adjectives that modify the same noun, two clauses that fill the same role in the sentence, or two nouns that are both complements of the same preposition.

That said, quite often people conjoin two items after "either" that do not follow this rule, yet the intended meaning is so clear that there's no doubt what the intended meaning is, and it sounds like good grammar. This is one of few situations in English where technically bad grammar sounds just fine. In writing, an editor would notice this and correct it. In speaking, nobody would even bat an eyelash.

  1. ... that I either am interested in or have read before.

In this example, the conjoined items are both verb phrases, so the grammar is good.

  1. ... that I am either interested in or have read before.

In this example, the first conjoined item is an adjective, while the second is a verb phrase, so technically it's wrong, but most people hearing or reading it would understand it perfectly and not think it was a mistake.

  1. ... that either I am interested in _____ or I have read ______ before.

Here, both items after "either" are clauses with a missing object, which is represented by the relative pronoun "that". The grammar is fine.

In English, we have a strong distaste for repetition, and it sounds bad anywhere it can be avoided. In this third sentence, "I" is repeated unnecessarily. Since sentence 1. has correct grammar and is the simplest way to use the "either ... or" structure, it's the best choice.

BUT 1. is not the most natural. "Either" is optional where the meaning is still clear without it. So a natural phrasing of this would be:

Below are the articles that I am interested in or have read before. (sentence 1. without "either")

1
  • 1
    Thanks! This is an epic answer. Jan 17 at 1:08

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