Which of the following sentences is correct?

  1. My travel bag has two combination locks, one on either end
  2. My travel bag has two combination locks on either end
  3. My travel bag has two combination locks, one on both ends
  4. My travel bag has two combination locks on both ends
  • either talks about two and so does 'both'.
    – Maulik V
    Dec 1, 2014 at 10:52
  • 2
    either talks about "one" and not "two". However, its one out of two.
    – Rucheer M
    Dec 1, 2014 at 11:05
  • @RuchirM aw..I meant that only!
    – Maulik V
    Dec 1, 2014 at 11:46

3 Answers 3


Numbers 1 and 3 are OK.

At may be preferred by some to designate the location (end). On tends to suggest a surface.

Either has more than one meaning, including:

2 each of two The offices on either side were empty. There's a door at either end of the corridor.

Both also has more than one meaning:

1 ... ‘the two’ or ‘the one as well as the other’

Published examples:

Dual-swivel hose fittings. Most we tested have one at both ends of the hose to help prevent kinks.

Date 2007 (Mar) Publication information Vol. 72, Iss. 3; pg. 40, 3 pgs Title WET/DRY VACS: For big jobs, it's in the bag Source Consumer Reports

(speech) Ms-CUTCHER: We both saw him straddling the body basically, a foot on both sides of Trayvon's body and his hands pressed on his back.

Date 2012 (120325) Title Latest on the shooting of Trayvon Martin Source NBC_Dateline

So what does that all mean? Advocates on both sides of the case took Kennedy's statements as a signal that he and the court will rule in their favor.

Date 2012 (120328) Publication information A-SECTION; Pg. A01 Title Watchers on both sides play guessing game Author David A. Fahrenthold;N.C. Aizenman Source Washington Post

  • +1 for 'at' - that hadn't really bothered me so I didn't correct it, but I do prefer it. Dec 1, 2014 at 11:41
  • I don't much like #1 (it should be each, not either). But my -1 is for saying #3 is "standard" - I find that one completely unacceptable. Dec 1, 2014 at 13:54
  • @FumbleFingers Are you contesting a fact or expressing a personal dissatisfaction with the way people use this language? I'm not sure why you emphasize standard. If it's not clear, I mean that the texts violate no widely accepted rules of grammar propounded by recognized authorities. I've expanded my answer to try to show how the uses so conform, though I'd be happy to see a contradictory fact. It wouldn't surprise me. Dec 1, 2014 at 15:05
  • 1
    +1. As to "one on either end", that seems to be standard usage, w.r.t. MWCDEU "either" entry which has the example: "The two men walked one on either side of the cart --James Stephens The Crock of Gold, 1912".
    – F.E.
    Dec 1, 2014 at 17:48
  • 1
    @F.E. supercat: I have revised the answer again. I think it is simplified as is, and more could be said. But I don't think the sentences 1 and 3 can fairly be proclaimed incorrect. Careful writers and speakers may want to avoid such expressions as a house on both sides of the hill as ambiguous, and maybe a guard at both entrances for the same reason, but always avoiding such seems more a matter of taste than avoiding grammatical error. Dec 1, 2014 at 18:40

This is one of my pet hates…


"…one on each end." or rather, after useful comments,
"...one at each end."

Saves so much confusion.

"two combination locks on either end"
"two combination locks on both ends"

That's 4 locks you have? No, so it can't be those.

one on either end

Colloquial, but OK at a push.

one on both ends

Just clumsy. You can't have 'one on both ends' you need two, unless you can bend the laws of physics.. The one just can't reach to both ends at the same time, it needs its partner at the other end.

Further explanation as to why it ought to be 'each' not 'either' in this scenario

I have a watch chain & one watch. The watch can go on either end of the chain. No confusion, the choice is right there, either end, pick which end you attach it to.

I now have a watch chain & 2 watches. I can attach them to each end. I cannot attach them to either end, because as soon as I've attached the first one, I have no choice then but to attach the other one to the other end. I can no longer attach it to either end.

Also, the football example, of how to really fall over when getting this wrong…
"In football they have two goalkeepers, at either end…"
Sorry, no they don't. The goalkeepers don't get to choose which end they stand at, otherwise they could both choose the same end. They must stand one at each end.

BTW, I realise this is extreme pedantry, & that you could easily get away with most of the alternative suggestions, but I'm just trying to nail this one down logically

  • 1
    is your imperative, Use ____ a personal preference/suggestion or a correction? :-) Dec 1, 2014 at 11:28
  • Both ;) It is simply the least confusing way to describe the situation. People fall over this one so frequently - even natives - that you get bizarre constructions like "In football they have two goalkeepers, at either end…" Dec 1, 2014 at 11:31
  • More employment in the sports industry. o.o Dec 1, 2014 at 11:36
  • 3
    There's nothing wrong with "either end"; it's fairly common, even in formal writing (perhaps more so).
    – psmears
    Dec 1, 2014 at 14:06
  • @psmears: Those examples describe different situations. For example, a train has a control cab at "either end" to allow it to be controlled by an operator at either end of the train. If operation of the train would require that both cabs be occupied simultaneously, then it would be more appropriate to say "two cabs--one at each end". I've never seen a suitcase which has two combination locks but could be opened in its entirety using only one. If the OP were describing such a suitcase, then "either end" would be appropriate, but I've never seen one.
    – supercat
    Dec 1, 2014 at 18:14

"Either" is a determiner; it means "each of two". "Both" is also a determiner; it also means the one and the other or each of two.

1- My travel bag has two combination locks, one at either end. The sentence sounds natural and grammatically correct. There are two locks together. We can rephrase this sentence as "My travel bag has a combination lock at either end". It also means a total number of two locks.

2- "My travel bag has two combination locks at either end". It's not correct if you mean two locks altogether. This sentence indicates a total of four locks.

3- "My travel bag has two combination locks, one at both ends" (each of two sides). This sentence is also grammatically correct; it means a total number of two locks.

4- "My travel bag has two combination locks at both ends". It's not correct as it means that there are four locks; two at one end and two at the other end.

I think if we use either or both in a right way, it makes no difference.


  • Could the number 3 be rephrased as follows: "My travel bag has a combination lock at both ends" ?
    – Robbo
    Dec 1, 2014 at 19:01
  • A good, clear answer. +1 Dec 1, 2014 at 19:06
  • 1
    @Robbo I say yes, it could be so rephrased. Some will say that each end is better, but that's a matter of opinion and does not render both ends incorrect. Dec 1, 2014 at 19:11
  • 1
    To my ear, the construct "a widget at either end" implies an expectation that someone needing a widget could arbitrarily select an end, use the widget there, and ignore the other. If the case is unlocked it might be possible to secure it using the lock at "either" end, but if one did so it would (for typical cases and locks) only be possible to open it using the lock on the particular end that was used previously. To my ear, "ether end" would generally suggest that one could secure the case with the lock at either end, and still be able to open it with either end.
    – supercat
    Dec 1, 2014 at 20:03
  • I would appreciate if the person who has downvted enlighten me in light of the explanation of both and either in the dictionaries, esp. The Free Dictionary.
    – Khan
    Dec 3, 2014 at 11:32

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