Can we say "I have a red car. Neither does Sara." or must we say "I have a red car but Sara doesn't."?

I have read this on a website and they said that the first sentence is incorrect but I don't think the same so I need your help.

closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, user11550, Kristina Lopez, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, MetaEd Jan 22 '13 at 0:27

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The first sentence is incorrect.

Neither is a negative word, but it can't be used except with another negative constituent. Usually the other negative constituent is marked with nor.

  • They serve neither beer nor wine here. (They don't serve beer and don't serve wine either.)
  • I don't have a red car. Neither does Sarah. (I don't have one and Sarah doesn't, either)

    (For the reasons why this is so, see De Morgan's Laws.)

In other words, you can't use neither alone to negate something.

Affirmatives have more options:

  • I have a red car. So does Sarah.
  • I have a red car. Sarah does, too.
  • Sarah and I both have a red car/red cars.


  • Possibly too sweeping. They serve beer nor wine here is archaic/affected, but not wrong. – TimLymington Jan 21 '13 at 21:24
  • Perhaps in the UK. There are phrases like kith nor kin, but they almost always are NPIs and require a triggering negative. – John Lawler Jan 21 '13 at 21:33
  • @TimLymington that doesn't necessarily go against what John wrote here, though I would still say that your example stretches the nor enough to leave a mark. – Jon Hanna Jan 21 '13 at 21:56
  • @JonHanna: against the spirit, though not the letter. And 'rare' is not 'overstretched'; the OED has a 2007 citation (three times before in my career... I, nor my management, have ever had any kind of problem with creating a gay character). – TimLymington Jan 21 '13 at 22:46
  • Yes, it does get used, but it's highly formulaic language and meant to have a particular effect. It's not anything one should point out to an EFL learner, for sure. If you look through all the quotations in the OED, you're sure to find just about everything. – John Lawler Jan 21 '13 at 22:58

Let's get the other uses of neither down for completeness, before focusing on this use, because it does help to think about all the ways it is used.

As a determiner or a pronoun, it rejects all of two or more possibilities.*

"Would you like the chocolate or the coffee cake?" "Neither, thanks."

The EL&U question asked which of two sentences was correct, but neither seemed correct to me.

Along with nor as a conjunction:

That is fit for neither man nor beast!

Now, onto the conjunctive adverb sense you're looking at. Just as the other senses are negating all of a set of possibilities, so as an adverb it means not just that the case is not so, but that it is comparably not so.

I don't have a car, and neither does Sarah.

I don't have a car. Neither does Sarah.

If you are not making a negative statement in both cases, then neither is not appropriate.

I have a car, so does Sarah.

I have a car. Sarah does not.

I don't have a car, but Sarah does.

*While there is a long standing use of neither for more than two items, some say it should only be used for two items, with "none of" or similar for three or more. Certainly, "none of" seems better to me sometimes, but neither seems fine other times.

  • 1
    "None of snow, rain, heat, or gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" just doesn't have the same ring, does it? – Andrew Lazarus Jan 21 '13 at 21:27
  • 1
    @AndrewLazarus Or Kipling's "The Ballad of East and West": "But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, / When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!" Ironically, I think some of the strength of these comes from the fact that neither is often taken to refer to only two items; with the third and subsequent it piles on more than we've been led to expect. – Jon Hanna Jan 21 '13 at 21:50

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