I was wondering if any of you would be able to give me some clarification on what you take the intention of the final phrase below to be:

The term ‘mental decolonization’ has been associated with Frantz Fanon and Kwame Nkrumah alike. What does EITHER of these thinkers understand by this term and how does EITHER think mental colonization can be overcome?

Note: please focus on EITHER ONE of these theorists in your answer

Does this mean that the recipient is supposed to focus their answer on both theorists, or only one theorist?

Thank you in advance for your help with this issue. I find it quite embarrassing that as a native speaker I cannot myself figure out what the intention is.

edit: It would seem that the general consensus is that the author of the question intended focus on only one theorist. However, if you feel that there is cause to disagree with this, please feel free to share your views.

  • 1
    The assignment asks you to choose one. Either means one, and you may select which one. If you address their joint understanding together, or each one as an individual, you will lose points for disregarding the question. May 8, 2020 at 17:39
  • 2
    In that passage, I would assume that you only have write about a single person. However, the author is guilty of not being explicit and of causing possible confusion. It could all have been avoided by using "Note: please focus on ONLY ONE of these theorists in your answer. The use of the word focus also implies a narrowing of attention. After all, it would be somewhat silly to say focus on both when there are only two to start with. If both had been meant, I assume the wording would have been something like discuss both. May 8, 2020 at 17:40
  • 1
    @YosefBaskin It's not true that either always means only one and not the other. Although it commonly does, sometimes the two things do not need to be exclusive of each other. From Merriam-Webster: plays either instrument well. In that context, it means plays both instruments well. (Take your pick, either is played well.) That's why although we can assume exclusivity here, it's not necessarily how it's supposed to be taken. May 8, 2020 at 17:47
  • 'Either' in the unusual usage you mention means 'X, yes; Y, yes – but not both at the same time'. This can't apply to OP's example. May 8, 2020 at 17:52
  • @JasonBassford - The word either shows up three times in this problem. May 8, 2020 at 17:52

1 Answer 1




II. One or other of the two.

absolute adjective [used] as a pronoun.

1849 Macaulay Hist. Eng. I. 164 Whatever was ridiculous or odious in either increased the scorn and aversion which the multitude felt for both.

Compare with "both" in the quotation above.

  • Well that would seem to miss out what is detailed by the OED in definition I. May 8, 2020 at 18:45
  • 1
    I suggest you understand that "either" has several functions. I have given you the one that is relevant to the quote you gave. Definition 1 in the OED refers to "either" used as an attributive adjective "1819 Scott Ivanhoe I. iii. 47 There was a huge fire-place at either end of the hall, If you have a problem with the OED, you may wish to write.
    – Greybeard
    May 8, 2020 at 19:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.