Consider I have two items X and Y from one group and items A and B from another group and also each group contains more than two items.

Then, can I phrase a clause like this mentioned below?

It is neither X or Y nor A or B.

I am not asking about the compatibility of the items of different groups, I am just asking about the "neither ... nor" grammar here.

3 Answers 3


I think its different because it is two groups. Let's say I have choices of apples(X), oranges(Y), lettuce(A) and cabbage(B) for my salad.

My salad has neither (apples or oranges) nor (lettuce or cabbage).

since the 2 groups were specified in the question. I think this gets confusing because there was no selection.

But its not the same thing as

My salad has neither apples nor oranges nor lettuce nor cabbage.

because when you make a selection, for example,

My salad has either (apples or oranges) or (lettuce or cabbage).

you can have apples and lettuce but you can't have apples and oranges.


Here's the best answer I've seen so far (When to use nor by Grammar Girl).

You may also use “nor” if you’re talking about more than two items, but you must repeat “nor” after each element (2). So if you want to add ketchup to your list of dislikes, you have to say, “I like neither hot dogs nor mustard nor ketchup.” It would be incorrect to use an “or” anywhere in that sentence—or to leave out either case of “nor.”


Why don't you say like this:

It is neither A, nor B, nor C, nor D...

As the construct Palmer said,

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

as an inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City.

However, generally the items here are not obviously different groups. For emphasizing different groups, maybe you can use a semicolon:

It is neither X, nor Y; nor A, nor B...

  • 1
    That's the construct Palmer used: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
    – J.R.
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 8:52
  • 2
    I think the different groups changes the construct a bit ... ie, this is more 'Neither snow or rain, nor scratching cats or biting dogs ... In that case, isn't OP's syntax more correct?
    – mcalex
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 9:43
  • @mcalex: You can still bind the latter with "nor" and using the right intonation and timing you will retain the groupings in speech. There's also a way of using semicolon as supercomma: neither X, nor y; nor A, nor B. Still, while it technically achieves the purpose, this isn't a very well known syntax so few readers will recognize the intended grouping.
    – SF.
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 5:15
  • @SF. Understood, hence 'more correct'. Also, they didn't teach me about supercommas at school. Are these needed because modern text is becoming too resistant to ordinary commas or can they leap tall syntax structures in a single clause? :-)
    – mcalex
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 7:08
  • @mcalex Hmm. Both the comma and semicolon have a listing function, but the semicolon is stronger than the comma, so using one as a supercomma forces the right interpretation. (I'm not familiar with the term supercomma either, but it appears to express this idea!) Since commas can appear at multiple levels within a single construction, it's not necessary to use a semicolon in this fashion, but I think doing so makes it a bit easier to understand.
    – user230
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 22:14

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