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George Galloway is an outspoken MP with excellent rhetorical skills. I will take a part of his speech to convey the idea of my question.


Iraq is neither strong, independent nor even a single country any more.

Would it be correct to rephrase the sentence above using this order "not/neither/nor" as follows:

Iraq is not strong neither independent nor even a single country any more.

And so on, can I form sentences similar to it, for example:

I am not mean neither greedy nor arrogant.

Would that be grammatically correct?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

No, it wouldn't. The order can either be

I am not X nor Y nor Z.

Or it can be

I am neither X nor Y nor Z.

Or even

I am not X and neither am I Y or Z.

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Thank you very much indeed. And the form that George used is correct as well, right? Iraq is neither X, Y nor Z. – Bright Polyglot Feb 2 '13 at 22:54
I'm not sure it is not grammatical but I would not use it myself. – terdon Feb 2 '13 at 23:06
Some people will tell you that neither can only be used with two items, and of those some would object even to terdon's second example here. However it's long been used for more than two items, and terdon's second example can definitely have a good effective punch as can Galloway's, so I for one wouldn't be one to say it's not allowed. In cases where you could use "none of" or "none" rather than "neither", it's often a good idea to do so, but frankly Galloway's statement would be weaker if it was rewritten to that, so I wouldn't consider that a case. – Jon Hanna Feb 3 '13 at 0:05
I find the sentence I am not mean nor greedy and neither am I arrogant clumsy. However, Galloway's is not. I believe the difference lies in that the neither in his case refers to a third person but I cannot tell you why. Perhaps @JonHanna can. – terdon Feb 3 '13 at 0:33
@BrightPolyglot: I think reading the not, nor, and neither in that sentence as forming a sequence of three is an error. It reads to me like a two-part sentence: "[I am not now nor have I ever been an oil trader] and [neither has anyone on my behalf]". Similarly, "I am not mean nor greedy and neither am I arrogant" would place arrogance in a different (possibly contrasting) category than meanness and greed. I would suggest that it seems awkward because -- at least in the absence of context -- this is a strange thing to do. – Micah Feb 3 '13 at 4:48

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