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When you hate both books, do you say ● "I don't like both" or ● "I don't like either" ?

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4 Answers 4

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Both are perfectly grammatical but mean different things.

Both is an odd word: it is one of few English words that is still dual, which is to say that it refers collectively to two entities--no more and no less. Either also refers to two entities, but it does so individually. Take the following example:

Both men are here.

Either man is here.

You will have noticed that, in both cases, there is the implication of two men being in question; however, you will also have noticed that the first sentence gives explicit reference to both of them, whereas the second only gives such reference to one. The second sentence alerts us of two men's existence, but quietly lets us know that only one of them is present.

With this is mind, let us move on to your question:

I don't like both.

I don't like either.

The first sentence means that you dislike the two things collectively; as such, each on its own may or may not be likable, or perhaps one is likable but the other is not. The second sentence means that you dislike the two things individually, which precludes liking one but not the other.

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You would say "I don't like either one".

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    Right. But oddly enough, you would also say "I dislike them both," not "I dislike either one."
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 23:47
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    Or, as the OP wrote, "I don't like either". @SvenYargs Dislike isn't a trigger for negative polarity items (NPIs). You also can't say *I dislike them at all, but I don't like them at all is fine.
    – user28567
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 0:02
  • The one there is optional and that's not even the question anyway.
    – Kris
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 8:46
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I like them both, I dislike them both, I don't like either.

Actually I don't really dislike either of them, I just didn't think they were very interesting.

I want them both, I reject them both, I don't want either.

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"I don't like both"

is appropriate when you speak generally of the author's books: 'I don't like both of Third's books'

"I don't like either"

is appropriate when you name Third's books: I don't like either The Blank e Blank or The Blank the Blank

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