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I wrote these sentences:

① I am unable to speak. I am unable to hear either.

② I felt humiliated at the party last night. I was unable to sleep well, too.

Here is my analysis: In ①, the first sentence is negative and the second one is negative as well. For this reason, either is used.

But in ② the first sentence is positive, and though unable is negative, since the first sentence is positive, too is used.

Is my analysis correct?

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  • Because in English, disjunctive relationships are generally inclusive, if you can say about something this or that, then you can use either or too: I can't speak or hear/I can't speak. I can't hear, either/too. For the same reason, you can use either either or too when it's a conjunctive relationship: I felt humiliated at the party last night, and I was unable to sleep well/I felt humiliated at the party last night. I was unable to sleep well, either/too. tl;dr your analysis is incomplete and overly simplifies the logico-semantics of the conjunctions used.
    – jimsug
    Aug 9 '14 at 14:09
  • Nico says both are grammatical.
    – user2492
    Aug 9 '14 at 14:13
  • yes - they are grammatical, but your question was whether your analysis was correct, and not about the grammaticality of the sentences (which I didn't question).
    – jimsug
    Aug 9 '14 at 14:14
  • The Phrase: "The old method of learning English didn't work, other methods won't work, too." Is that phrase correct or should I use either instead of too?
    – Elizeu
    May 7 '18 at 16:58
  • @Elizeu - I think either sounds better, but I don't know if I'd say that the version with too would be "incorrect."
    – J.R.
    May 7 '18 at 17:48
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Both examples are grammatical. In ① and ②, both either and too are working as adverbs.

Adverbs (and more generally adverbial phrases) can complement verbs, adjectives or, as in ① and ②, clauses.

I am unable to hear either.

"Either" in the above sentence complements the whole clause "I am unable to hear". It is used to indicate that the clause is adding some information to the preceeding sentence. As noted by the OP, "either" is used for this purpose only when both sentences express negation. In ①, "unable" provides this negative meaning in both sentences.

Other examples of this usage of either (taken from the dictionary linked above):

You don’t like him, do you? I don’t, either.
It won’t do any harm, but won’t really help, either.
I was too tired to go. And I couldn’t have paid my way, either.

If any of the sentences, as in example ②, does not express negation, then the adverb "either" is infelicitous, and "too" should be used instead:


Note that both "either" and "too" link one clause with the preceding sentence, and hence, there must be a reason to link them.

In the case of ①, both sentences follow the same pattern: "I am unable to".

In the case of ②, more context is needed to make this reason patent, e.g.:

Yesterday was a terrible day: I felt humiliated at the party last night. I was unable to sleep well, too.

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  • @username901345 By "infelicitous" I mean that one has to consider the meaning of the sentences to determine that the use of "either" isn't appropriate in ②.
    – Nico
    Aug 9 '14 at 12:35
  • @username901345 I've updated the answer to try to clarify that example ② is grammatical.
    – Nico
    Aug 9 '14 at 13:10

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