I received a comment to one of my questions that I would like to elaborate on.

Because the inversion of word order in the original makes it sound a little stilted

The original question yielded two possible ways of expressing the same thing and Robusto regarded the former one as the more stilted.

Neither I am, nor was I ever, nor will I ever be

I am not, have never been, and never will be

I understand that point of view, but as I am trying to improve my understanding of English literature as a non-native speaker, I would like to know how other people think about this issue.

I would have thought that the former statement is more literary whilst the latter would be used in a casual dialogue.

Is this true? How can I decide which one to choose, and when would a variant be considered inappropriate?

  • 1
    It's not exactly a "fine line". Stilted means artificially or affectedly lofty; unnaturally elevated; formally pompous, which is semantically orthogonal to figurative sloppy (weak, feeble; lacking in firmness or precision; slovenly). If anything, stilted implies excessive/misplaced "care, precision", where sloppy implies "careless, vague". Jul 14, 2015 at 13:01
  • 2
    Note: - "Neither I am" - should be - "Neither am I" Jul 14, 2015 at 15:30

2 Answers 2


These two examples exhibit anacolouthon: "Neither I am,... " ought to be followed by "...nor he is, nor she is..." The result is broken English. These sentences might be workable in fiction, precisely to show that the speaker was very emotional and slightly incoherent.

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

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

The next two answers are acceptable, but very formal, and slightly archaic. (This heaviness undermines the asseveration, and doubt creeps in: "Methinks he doth protest too much...")

I neither am, nor ever was, nor ever will be .... (@Karasinsky)

Neither am I, nor was I ever, nor will I ever be ... (@ Robusto)

It would be stronger and more emphatic to choose one of these two suggestions, and be direct.

I am not, have never been, and never will be ... (@Robusto)

I am not now, never was, and never will be... (@ Little Eva )

(The examples have been taken from this and a previous post, and if the contributors agree I shall convert this to Community Wiki.)


Neither is incorrect in the first sentence, as it means "not the one nor the other of two things", and in this case there are three.

To correctly use neither in this way, you need to also invert the verb and subject in the first clause.

Neither am I, nor will I ever be.

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    The problem with this argument is that neither logic, nor grammar, nor usage bears it out. The issue here is purely the OP's subject/verb inversion, as you have demonstrated in your correction. OP seems to be seeking a grammatical explanation for why Neither I am doesn't work here (which is beyond my capacity to explain).
    – user98990
    Jul 14, 2015 at 12:14

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