I would like to express that I am not something, as well that I never was it or ever will be.

This is what I wrote:

Neither I am, nor was I ever, nor will I ever be [...]

This appears to be wrong to me. I did some research, but for both the above and a slightly different variant:

Neither I am, nor ever was I, nor I ever will be [...]

only one usage example turns up.

So what would be the correct order of words here?

  • 1
    Pay attention to word order: Neither am I, nor was I ever, nor will I ever be . . . But you could also say, perhaps more felicitously, I am not, have never been, and never will be . . .
    – Robusto
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 10:54
  • 2
    I am not now, never was, and never will be ...
    – user98990
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 10:59
  • Thanks @Robusto. Would you mind to explain why the latter would perhaps be more felicitously? I always thought that usage of 'neither' would be more 'literary' Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 10:59
  • 2
    Because the inversion of word order in the original makes it sound a little stilted.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 11:01

1 Answer 1


I think both versions are problematic. It's not common to form a complete sentence using "neither" and "nor" in the way those versions do.

"Neither" and "nor", when used together, normally connect two phrases of certain kinds to create a more complex phrase of the same kind. The phrases being connected are normally all of the same kind as each other. For example:

I am neither a liar nor a thief.

He was neither enthusiastic nor polite.

They neither cared about nor responded to my request.

I neither kicked down the door nor assaulted the man.

Note that word order is normal everywhere.

However, there is a different usage of "neither" which occurs without "nor". In fact, in this other construction, "neither" and "nor" (on their own) can often be used interchangeably:

Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Neither am I!

Nor am I!

Nor did he get any compensation.

Here, "neither" (or "nor") is followed by a main clause to form a complete sentence and has the meaning of "and not...". In this construction, word order is inverted and if the main verb isn't a form of "be" then an auxiliary verb is needed.

I suggest that the OP's examples are attempts to use "neither... nor ...." with sentence fragments of a kind that "neither ... nor ..." aren't normally used with. And because of similarity with my second type of construction involving "neither" at the start of a sentence, the speaker is inverting the word order (which will look odd because "neither...nor..." does not cause word order to change).

If a "neither.... nor ..." construction in particular is sought, then the following works fine as the connected elements are phrases of the same kind as each other (in this case verb phrases) and have normal word order:

I neither am, nor ever was, nor ever will be ....

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