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If there are only two alternatives, which is more correct,

"They don't use either of them"


"They don't use any of them"?

I am pretty sure than "any" is more correct, but can I use either "either" ?

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How many of them are there? – edA-qa mort-ora-y Jul 11 '11 at 19:24
two .............. – genesis Jul 11 '11 at 20:56
Perhaps you don't have the rep to edit that (somewhat crucial!) information into your question. Whatever - I've done it for you. – FumbleFingers Jul 12 '11 at 2:26
both are correct i am pretty sure. – user18796 Mar 5 '12 at 20:41
up vote 11 down vote accepted

The either version would imply two (2) choices, whereas any would imply multiple choices. While two is a multiple — so any could be used — I prefer either when referring to a specific two choices.

The use of any additionally implies no use outside of the offered subset. So if there is a superset of choices beyond the subset then "They don't use any of them" could imply no use of the superset either.

For example:

— Do they prefer Ford or Chevy cars?
— They don't use either of them.

This defines that they do not drive Ford or Chevy cars.

— They don't use any of them.

This may be taken to imply that not only do they not drive Ford or Chevy, they do not drive any cars at all.

— They don't use any of those.

This removes any perceived implication of the superset.

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To expand on this answer, I just want to make explicit that both are correct. The first is okay only if there are exactly two objects. The second is okay if there are 3, 4, 50, uncountably many, or an unknown amount. It's the same as "They both went to the party" and "They all went to the party." – Alan Jul 11 '11 at 19:26
@Alan, I'd say that any can even refer to 0 or 1. For example "Use any of them in the room?" is grammatically correct, though somewhat nonsensical, if there is nothing in the room, or only one thing. – edA-qa mort-ora-y Jul 11 '11 at 19:44
@Rhodri: You have an exceptionally broad definition of 'correct', which seems to include things I would say are at best 'marginally acceptable, but non-standard'. Excepting @Chad's slightly contrived context, I don't think it's exactly 'endorsable' to use any when there are only two objects. – FumbleFingers Jul 12 '11 at 2:32
@Rhodri: Odd to find we're on opposite sides of the accept/reject 'questionable' usages issue, between this Q and the rife/ripe debate! :) – FumbleFingers Jul 12 '11 at 14:00
@FumbleFingers - I was not actually endorsing the use of any for 2 options. I was trying to demonstrate that use of any can be ambiguous and unclear. – Chad Jul 12 '11 at 14:04

Both are correct, but the "any" option sounds odd to a native-English ear.

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For all the upvotes and debate on @Chad's answer, I think this one says all that needs to be said. – FumbleFingers Jul 12 '11 at 14:34

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