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I'm wondering whether I can use "either" or "too" in this sentence, or both?

There are things I can't give up either

There are things I can't give up too

Please explain why/why not.

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    They are correct in the context where they follow what someone else has said, for example "I just can't give up eating snacks between meals." Although the first one would IMO be better phrased as "I can't give them up either." Jul 22 at 8:03
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    Please do not answer in comments. Write an answer.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jul 22 at 8:08
  • @Robin Please supply more context. Are your sentences in reply to something? If so, what? Whether something works or not is highly dependent on context.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jul 22 at 8:09
  • I don't really have any more context, but I would like to know in what context "either" would be right and in what context it would be wrong, and the same with "too" Jul 22 at 8:33
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    This isn't an answer because I don't have a source, but as a native speaker I read the first as implying that the things are the same for both speakers. "Either" belongs with "I can't," i.e. "there are things that you can't give up that I also can't give up" but "too" goes with "There are," i.e. "There are things that you can't give up and there are also things that I can't give up." Jul 23 at 20:17
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It's "too".

It's clear that the speaker B is responding to a remark made by somebody else, A. B said "things", not "them". This shows that B is not referring back to any things that A mentioned, but is giving B's own experience with a perhaps different bunch of things. So it's

1. A: There are [things I can't give up].

B: There are [things I can't give up], too.

There are your things, and there are my things, too. The word "either" would be needed only in a negative context, and there is no negative in a suitable position to make "either" needed. Sure, there's a "n't" in the noun phrase "things I can't give up", but it's not at the head of that phrase.

Compare that with:

2. A: There are things I can't give up. Like snacking, and junk food.

B: I can[not give them up], either.

Where B refers to their own inability to do the same action (namely giving up snacking and junk food).

You can't, and I can't, either. The difference here is that the negative (in "can't") negates the verb in the predicate.

Edit for clarity in the light of what other answers have said. The difference between my two examples is not the semantic difference that in the first the bunches of things might be different and in the second they're the same --- rather, it's the syntactic difference that the first contrasts two noun phrases and the second contrasts two predicates whose head verbs are negated. Some more examples based on those in Tim Pederick's answer:

3. A: There are some people I don't like.

B: There are some people I don't like, too.

4. A: I don't like my neighbours.

B: I don't like my neighbours, either.

Some people, some people. The noun phrases are not negative. Don't like, don't like. The predicates' head verbs are negated. Just to show that noun phrases can in some circumstances produce negative contexts that would demand "either":

5. There are no people I dislike so much that I'd say such a rude remark to their faces. There are no people I dislike so much that I'd post such a remark online about them, either.

No people, no people. Negative noun phrases.

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    This was my line of thinking too. But I got confused when I got to another possibility: "There are things neither I can give up". A literal translation to Swedish makes this sentence sound correct, which made me wonder if "either" could make some reference I didn't think of. Jul 22 at 9:58
  • @RobinManoli That is not grammatical English. When it comes to ideas that involve negatives, it's sometimes complicated, what constructs a language will allow, and what ones it won't. Your question concerns usage of "either" and "too" as optional tags. I'm pretty sure that "neither" can't be used as an optional tag like that -- after all, leaving it out would remove the sentence's only negative. There's the curious English idiom "Me neither", but in that case the word "neither" is necessary.
    – Rosie F
    Jul 22 at 10:07
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    Let me see if I understand you correctly. You're saying "too" is correct in "There are [predicate]"/"There are [predicate] too", even when [predicate] includes a negative? I agree with that, although I think that (a) "either" could also work, and (b) there is a subtle difference in meaning. I need to think about this some more, though. It seems to be one of those styles of usage that I've learnt without ever thinking much about. Jul 22 at 11:53
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    FWIW, as a native speaker OP's use of "either" does not strike me as non-idiomatic.\
    – user3634
    Jul 23 at 16:43
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    This post makes a compelling case but to me "either" seems like the preferable choice. This is certainly an interesting question. I would be inclined to say both words are completely acceptable, just emphasizing different parts of the initial sentence. Jul 23 at 16:52
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Short answer: “Either” is correct. “Too” might not be wrong, but choose “either” just to be safe.

Long answer:

“Either” is commonly used in place of “too” for negative statements (ones using “not”, or in this case “-n’t”).

He likes the new neighbours. I like them too.

He doesn’t like the new neighbours. I don’t like them either.

I’m not sure I can say that “‘too’ for positives, ‘either’ for negatives” is an actual rule of English, or that it’s a universally (or even widely) observed preference. It’s certainly what I (an Australian English speaker) would use myself, and what I’m used to hearing from others. But I wouldn’t be surprised if this is perfectly acceptable to many native speakers:

He doesn’t like the new neighbours. I don’t like them too.

But even among those who (hypothetically) accept this form, I am sure that “either” would also be acceptable. So that’s the safer choice for you.

I will dare to say that you should not use “either” for positives. This is wrong:

He likes the new neighbours. I like them *either.

Also, when I say “negative”, I specifically mean the grammatical negative, using “not” (or “-n’t”). A sentence that says something negative (in the sense of denying or unfavourable) without “not” should use “too”:

He dislikes the new neighbours. I dislike them too.

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    For what it's worth, as an American English speaker, your third example ("He doesn’t like the new neighbours. I don’t like them too.") sounds completely wrong to me. Which is interesting, because "I dislike them"/"I dislike them too" is perfectly fine, and I wouldn't be shaken if I said "I don't like him" and somebody replied "Me, too" rather than "Me, either". Maybe other Americans would be fine with it, but that example just sounds bizarre to my ears. Jul 22 at 15:54
  • With “I don’t like them, too/either”, too emphasises the similarity between the speakers whereas neither emphasises the ‘not liking’.
    – Lawrence
    Jul 22 at 16:48
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    I'm inclined to think "too" is more correct in OP's example, as the sentence is actually positive/affirming, beginning with "There are", as Rosie highlights. If it was reworded to "I can't give up some things too/either", then I would go for "either", but I naturally use "too" in the first. Jul 22 at 20:51
  • I agree with you, @DarthPseudonym. This is how we would do it — if we did it at all: He doesn’t like the new neighbours. I, too, don’t like them. Jul 23 at 1:19
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    "He doesn't like the new neighbors. I don't like them too" does seem very unusual and arguably incorrect (certainly not idiomatic). However, "He dislikes the new neighbors. I dislike them too." would be perfectly fine and the use of "either" would unambiguously be wrong with that choice of words. Jul 23 at 16:47
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Either here is used as an adverb. Many grammar sites point to a guideline that is safe to follow:

The adverb either is used in negative sentences (negative verb) to add an agreeing idea or thought. It usually comes at the end of a sentence or clause.

  • So you didn't go to the concert. Well, we didn’t either. Was it good? (eceenglish)

Too is an adverb that means also, as well:

You can use too after affirmative sentences. When the verb is negative, you cannot use “too.” (Englishcurrent)

So the matter is simple: In your sentence, the verb modified by either is negative (can't give up). It would be safe to use too if the verb was affirmative:

There are things I can give up too.

Note: There are few cases, however, when too can follow a negative sentence, and it is used to express not agreement, but the addition of one fact to another. For example:

I am so tired this morning. Danny hasn't appeared at the office, too. I honestly doubt we'll finish this task in time for 4 p.m.

This could be re-written as:

I am so tired this morning and on top of that/and, to add to the problem Danny hasn't appeared at the office. I honestly doubt we'll finish this task in time for 4 p.m.

So unless your statement is part of this kind of structure, [e. g. My wife is becoming distant. There are things I can't give up too. I don't see how we can last much longer.]

it is better to use either.

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If you are following a negative statement, and if you don't need to completely repeat the thing being given up, then you can rephrase negative statements to use "Neither":

He just can't give up his lattes. Neither can I give them up.

Or even shorten it -- this is a very common construction:

He just can't give up his lattes. Neither can I.

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The whole point is spoken English. Not written English.

Generally speaking, therefore, one uses either in response to a negative assertion.

Speaker One: "I don't like pumpkin pie."
Speaker Two: "I don't like it either".

A single speaker: "I don't like pumpkin pie, and I don't much like quiches either."

Either, with two speakers, tends to include the speaker in what the other speaker is excluding.

Whereas, generally speaking, too is used with positive ones (declaratives).
Speaker One: "I love blueberry pie."
Speaker Two: "I love it too."

Too at the end after a comma:
Speaker One: There are many things I cannot give up.
Speaker Two: There are many things I cannot give up**, too.**

That comma is very important, as it means: I, too, cannot give up many things.

So, Speaker Two is saying s/he is like speaker one. Too = also there. This occurs in declaratives also:

"I can give up many things, too. "I, too, can give up many things."

[ Please note: I do not use a comma in all of them as I consider these to be said at one go with no pause.]

Too tends to include the speaker in what the other speaker is asserting.

These are examples of discourse deixis:

Discourse or text deixis describes deictic expressions which point to prior or succeeding parts of the discourse (Kryk-Kastovsky 1995, 331). In other words: “words and phrases […] that indicate the relationship between an utterance and the prior discourse” (Levinson 1983, 87).

discourse deixis

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    Self-contradictory. You start by asserting this is about spoken English, and then asserting that "a comma is very important". Unless you mean youtube.com/watch?v=Qf_TDuhk3No of course.
    – alephzero
    Jul 23 at 11:06
  • @alephzero I said the one of the meanings requires no comma. The other does. When transcribing spoken English, a comma just means a pause, no comma, no pause.
    – Lambie
    Jul 23 at 16:01

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