How would you use neither...nor when articles are involved? For instance: "My pet was neither a cat nor a dog." It sounds better to say "My pet was neither green nor blue" than "neither a...or a..." so I was wondering if there was some rule about this? Regarding the first example, "My pet was neither a cat or a dog" sounds more natural to me, for some reason.

  • 2
    "Neither cat nor dog" would work.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 20, 2020 at 14:46
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    Green and blue are adjectives, hence no articles. With your nouns cat and dog, the articles are optional, however the sense is slightly different without them. The article-less cat and dog mean "catkind" and "dogkind." Jun 20, 2020 at 14:58
  • Ah, yeah—so is it only grammatically correct to use neither...nor with adjectives?
    – user389320
    Jun 20, 2020 at 15:02
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    No. "My pet was neither a cat nor a dog" is fine. It may sound a little off because it's a rather unexpected thing to say, standalone. It would be better after some facilitating context. Jun 20, 2020 at 15:10
  • There's nothing at all unusual about the first sentence in the question. So, the question is based on a faulty premise. (In fact, the final sentence is not right at at all.) Jun 20, 2020 at 16:50

1 Answer 1


As @Edwin Ashworth says, we need some context. This is always needed because English is a context-dependent language.

Neither a P nor a Q

John: Do you have any pets?

Mary: I have one pet.

John: Let me guess. I bet it's a dog or a cat.

Mary: No it's neither a cat nor a dog. (This refers to a specific individual)

John: Is it a rabbit?

Mary: Yes!

Neither P nor Q

Mary: My goodness! What kind of animal is that?

John: I don't know. It looks weird.

Mary: All I can say is it's neither cat nor dog. (This refers to the species)

John: I think it is some kind of predator whatever it is.

  • Yes, you have put your finger on what needs explaining, and made it very clear. There is an expression that illustrates a very slightly way of using the negative disjunction without an article, when we say that a thing, animal or person is 'neither flesh, fish not fowl', meaning it is indefinably weird.
    – Tuffy
    Jun 20, 2020 at 16:28

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