I want to say that we cannot represent 23 in Roman as both IIIXX and XIIIX. The correct representation for 23 in Roman is XXIII.

If I write like this

XXIII, neither IIIXX nor XIIIX, represents 23 in roman.

is it correct grammar?

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    'To think that two and two are four/ and neither five nor three/ the heart of man has long been sore/ and long 'tis like to be.' Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 16:59

5 Answers 5


I would say that it is probably grammatical, but because 'neither' is not common introducing a clause like that, it is very confusing: it is not clear on first reading what the relationship is between the main clause and the parenthetical phrase.

Apart from the suggestions already made, 'but' would mend it, as it makes the relationship between them clearer:

XXIII, but neither IIIXX nor XIIIX,


I would say "The Roman numeral for 23 is XXIII. Variations like IIIXXX and XIIIX, although logical, would not be correct."

  • 1
    +1: A good response, but doesn't answer the question.
    – J D OConal
    Commented Oct 13, 2010 at 1:40
  • Thanks for your response. Anyway, if I insist on using "XXIII, neither IIIXX nor XIIIX, represents 23 in roman.", is it understandable? Commented Oct 13, 2010 at 1:41
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    Oops, sorry, good point. Neither sounds odd in this context. I think the issue is you basically have what looks like a sentence with two subjects: "XXIII represents ..." and "Neither IIXXX nor XIIIX represent[s]". It does not sound grammatical to me, but I cannot define exactly why not; the best I can do is suggest tweaks that seem to make it better, like "XXIII, but neither IIXXX nor XIIIX, ...".
    – Mike Pope
    Commented Oct 13, 2010 at 1:52
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    Wait, representing 23 as IIIXXX with three Xs would not be logical! :) Commented Dec 2, 2010 at 2:44
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    Those aren’t logical. They break the rules.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 12:52

I see no reason for it to be incorrect: 'neither IIIXX, nor XIIX' is known as dependent clause, so you have:

(subject) (dependent clause) (transitive verb) (direct object) (adverbial phrase)

It is the same, in my opinion, as

In Roman, XXIII — not IIIXX or XIIX — represents 23

Of course, adverbial phrases can be moved around reasonably freely. However, I do like Mike Pope's rewording.

  • "not X or Y" has the same meaning as "neither x nor y" ? Commented Oct 13, 2010 at 1:49
  • Substituting not for neither definitely fixes it. (Well, the dashes to set it off are part of that.)
    – Mike Pope
    Commented Oct 13, 2010 at 1:53
  • I would say that 'not X or Y' does have the same meaning as 'neither X nor Y', but I might be mistaken. Any thoughts?
    – J D OConal
    Commented Oct 13, 2010 at 2:24
  • See my answer to english.stackexchange.com/questions/3962/… for a quote from The Cambridge Guide to English Usage which clarifies this point.
    – J D OConal
    Commented Oct 13, 2010 at 3:31
  • I think @MikePope is right (in his comment on his question) on having one verb apply to two subjects. I also like his rewording. But if you want to stick with your sentence form, JD's rephrasing is better.
    – Benjol
    Commented Oct 13, 2010 at 5:21

I'm not sure if it's correct grammar, but it sounds awkward to me. It's like saying he, neither she nor it, is going to the store. It just doesn't sound right. I would instead say:

XXIII represents 23 in roman, but IIIXX and XIIIX do not.


If you really want to use that construction, then "XXIII, not IIIXX or XIIIX, represents 23 in Roman numerals", but other respondents have suggested more elegant forms.

Incidentally (and I know you didn't say this, but still...), neither IIIXX or XIIIX can represent 23, so I wouldn't say "although logical", as per Mike Pope's suggestion. IIIXX and XIIIX would represent 17, although they both break the rules of Roman numeral syntax, I believe.

Also, "roman" should be capitalised: "Roman".

  • I'm not sure IIIXX represents 17 according to the Roman numerals algorithms I know. IIIX would make 7 (but as you say it's not the right way to write it) but wouldn't 7X make 3? I suspect that it's a moot point since it's just wrong anyway, so whether it's wrong as 17 or wrong as 3 doesn't matter. Commented Mar 17, 2011 at 14:24
  • @Mr. Shiny and New: the first four digits of 'IIIXX' can't be separated and interpreted as 7, or a lot of Roman numerals would be ambiguous, which is not something you want in a number system.
    – gkrogers
    Commented Mar 20, 2011 at 9:43
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    I guess IIIXX simply isn't understandable in Roman numerals since it violates too many rules. We could argue about what makes more sense but we'd both be wrong. Commented Mar 20, 2011 at 16:34

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