The one or the other: Which movie do you want to see? Either will be fine.
Used before the first of two or more coordinates or clauses linked by or: Either we go now or we remain here forever.
- Any one of two; one or the other: Wear either coat.
- One and the other; each: rings on either hand.
Likewise; also. Used as an intensive following negative statements: If you don't order a dessert, I won't either.
Origin of either
Middle English from
Old English ǣther, ǣghwæther
; see kwo-
in Indo-European roots.
Usage Note: The traditional rule holds that either should be used only to refer to one of two items, and that any is required when more than two items are involved: Any (not either ) of the three opposition candidates still in the race would make a better president than the incumbent. But reputable writers have often violated this rule, and in any case it applies only to the use of either as a pronoun or an adjective. When either is used as a conjunction, no paraphrase with any is available, and so either is unexceptionable even when it applies to more than two clauses: Either the union will make a counteroffer or the original bid will be refused by the board or the deal will go ahead as scheduled. • In either … or constructions, the two conjunctions should be followed by parallel elements. The following is regarded as incorrect: You may either have the ring or the bracelet (properly, You may have either the ring or the bracelet ). The following is also incorrect: She can take either the exam offered to all applicants or ask for a personal interview (properly, She can either take … ). • When used as a pronoun, either is singular and takes a singular verb: The two left-wing parties disagree with each other more than either does (not do ) with the Right. When followed by of and a plural noun, either is often used with a plural verb: Either of the parties have enough support to form a government. But this usage is widely regarded as incorrect. In our 2009 survey, 87 percent of the Usage Panel rejected it, a percentage that has barely budged since the question was first posed in 1967. • When all the elements in an either … or construction (or a neither … nor construction) used as the subject of a sentence are singular, the verb is singular: Either Eve or Herb has been invited. Analogously, when all the elements in the either … or construction are plural, the verb is plural too: Either the Clarks or the Kays have been invited. When the construction mixes singular and plural elements, however, there is some confusion as to which form the verb should take. It has sometimes been suggested that the verb should agree with whichever noun phrase is closest to it; thus one would write Either the owner or the players are going to have to give in, but Either the players or the owner is going to have to give in. In our 2009 survey, 64 percent of the Usage Panel accepted this pattern. Others have maintained that the construction is fundamentally inconsistent whichever number is assigned to the verb, and that such sentences should be rewritten accordingly. See Usage Note at every. See Usage Note at neither. See Usage Note at or 1. See Usage Note at they.
In the UK the first pronunciation is generally used more in southern England, while the latter is more usual in northern England. However, this is an oversimplification, and the pronunciation used varies by individual speaker and sometimes by situation. The first pronunciation is the most common in the United States.
- Each of two. [from 9th c.]
- One or the other of two. [from 14th c.]
- (coordinating) Used before two or more not necessarily exclusive possibilities separated by "or" or sometimes by a comma.
- You'll either be early, late, or on time.
- Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
- Scarce a palm of ground could be gotten by either of the three.
- 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, III.i:
- And either vowd with all their power and wit, / To let not others honour be defaste […]
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894)
- There have been three talkers in Great British, either of whom would illustrate what I say about dogmatists.
- One or other of two people or things.
- (conjunctive, after a negative) as well
- I don't like him and I don't like her either.
either is sometimes used, especially in North American English, where neither would be more traditionally accurate: "I'm not hungry." "Me either."
- Introduces the first of two options, the second of which is introduced by "or".
- Either you eat your dinner or you go to your room.
- When there are more than two alternatives, "any" is used instead.
Old English ǣġhwæþer, from Proto-Germanic, ultimately corresponding to ay + whether. Akin to Old Saxon eogihwethar, iahwethar; Old Dutch *iogewether, *iowether, *iother (Dutch ieder); Old High German eogihwedar, iegihweder, ieweder (German jeder).