3 Types of Errors Involving the Correlative Conjunction “Either”

By Mark Nichol - 1 minute read

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When either and or are employed in a sentence to frame two alternatives, the correlative conjunction either is often misplaced, usually rendering the sentence more or less comprehensible but potentially introducing confusion. For each of the examples below, a discussion explains the problem, and a revision provides a solution.

1. She’s either criticized for being too fat or too thin.

In this type of sentence, placing either before a verb that precedes two alternatives implies that the verb applies only to the first alternative and that a corresponding verb will appear before the second one, but that does not occur. To render such a sentence correctly, relocate the correlative conjunction to follow the verb, so that both alternatives can share it: “She’s criticized for being either too fat or too thin.”

2. Teachers would either be paid extra to supervise the sessions, or nonteaching staff would be employed.”

This sentence does not pertain to two choices involving teachers, so the conjunction must precede, rather than follow, the subject so that it applies to the first alternative and or introduces the second one: “Either teachers would be paid extra to supervise the sessions, or nonteaching staff would be employed.”

3. We have seen many firms in which the manager reported either to the general counsel or a business leader.

In this case, the sentence would be correct only if a complementary to preceded the phrase “a business leader.” Otherwise, transpose either and to so that the alternative phrases can share the single instance of to: “We have seen many firms in which the manager reported to either the general counsel or a business leader.”

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3 Responses to “3 Types of Errors Involving the Correlative Conjunction “Either””

  • D.A.W.

    Things could be worse:
    “She is criticized for being either too fat or too thin, or else for being plain looking.”
    Cruel!

  • D.A.W.

    At a college somewhere in the English-speaking world, all students who were being thrown out of school were required to have an exit interview with the dean.
    One day, one of these students entered the dean’s office. In the course of several minutes, the dean could not get one straight sentence out of him at all.
    Finally, out of frustration, the dean exclaimed, “Son, either you are ignorant or you are apathetic!”
    The student replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”
    LOL !

  • Audreycuisine

    Sure, in such cases only P is indexed. But there is a morphosyntactic difference between afsepsou and a-prôme seps-ou, in that the former is totally uninterruptible (enclitic particles follow the whole bound group”) and in the latter, enclitics occur after the a-prôme group and before the lexical verb. More generally, it”s true that a- could be seen as an auxiliary, since it was grammaticalized from one (or more) auxiliary verbs, but it”s rather on the affix end of the cline than the lexical verb end. Another view, which is also coherent, is that a- is a portmanteau TAM/nominative case marker that occurs on lexical nouns, along the lines of nominal TAM” as presented by Nordlinger & Sadler (2004).

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