Is “Neither” Singular or Plural? Neither Is or Are?

Summary

Neither, which means “not either of two things,” is grammatically singular. In formal writing, use singular verbs like is with neither to indicate “not the one or the other” of two possibilities.

Examples
  • Neither of us has/have a suit.
  • Neither of them knows/know the answer.
  • Neither of them is/are ready.

In informal usage, neither may be treated as singular or plural depending on whether you want to negate two possibilities individually or both together.

Example
  • Informal: Neither of them is/are ready.

In neither-nor constructions, the verb used should agree with the part closest to it.

Examples
  • Neither the teacher nor the students have the tickets.
  • Neither the students nor the teacher has the tickets.

When to use neither

We use neither to mean “not either” and indicate that something is true for “not the one or the other of two things.”

Examples
  • Neither of these cars is right for me.
    not either of two cars
  • Neither car is right for me.
    not one or the other of two cars
  • Rita wants neither a car nor a truck; what she needs is a motorcycle.

In addition, we use neither to mean “also not.”

Example
  • “I didn’t crash the car.”
    Neither did I!”

Since neither negates two possibilities, it can be confusing to decide whether this word is singular or plural. In this article, we discuss which is correct: neither is or neither are.

Singular or plural?

Neither is grammatically singular and usually takes singular verbs like is and has. When used as a pronoun to mean “not the one or the other,” it negates each of two things individually.

Examples
  • Neither of them is/are a rocket scientist.
  • Neither of us is/are happy about this.
  • Neither of the two rooms you wanted is/are available.

However, neither can be used to negate not just each of two possibilities individually, but both together. Thus, in informal communication, neither is sometimes treated as plural, particularly when it is followed by the preposition of, as in constructions like neither of us, neither of them, and neither of the students.

Examples
  • Informal: Neither of us is/are correct.
    Formal: Neither of us is correct.
  • Informal: Neither of them is/are wrong.
    Formal: Neither of them is wrong.
  • Informal: Neither of the students knows/know the answer.
    Formal: Neither of the students knows the answer.
Caution

Most grammatical authorities and style manuals (like the Chicago Manual of Style) recommend treating neither as singular. In formal writing, use “neither is” instead of “neither are.”

Examples
  • Neither of these candidates is suitable for the job.
  • Neither of the lawnmowers is available.

When used as a determiner, neither precedes a singular noun and takes a singular verb like is or has.

Examples
  • Neither car is right for me.
  • Neither applicant has the right skills for the job.
  • Neither student knows the answer.

Like neither, either is grammatically singular and agrees with singular verbs like is and has.

Examples
  • Either of the options is acceptable.
  • Either option is correct.
  • Either of these ties is perfect for him.

But just like neither, in informal usage, either is sometimes used with plural verbs like are.

Example
  • Informal: Either of these is/are fine.
    Formal: Either of these is fine.

Neither-nor is or are?

Neither may also be used as a conjunction, seen most often in the neither-nor structure. When it occurs in a compound subject, the verb should agree with the part closest to it.

Examples
  • Neither the dog nor the cats have been fed.
  • Neither the cats nor the dog has been fed.

Read more in this article on verbs used with compound subjects.

How is neither pronounced?

Neither may be pronounced /NEE-dhər/ (with the long E sound) or /NEYE-dhər/ (with a diphthong, as in eye). Either pronunciation is fine in both formal and casual communication, in both British and American English, though the former is thought to be more common in American English: Merriam-Webster lists it as the first pronunciation in its entry on neither.

Similarly, either may be pronounced /EE-dhər/ or /EYE-dhər/, in both British and American English, though the former pronunciation is again more common in the United States.

Using neither: Examples from literature

Here are some examples from literature that show neither being used with singular verbs, as it generally is in writing.

Examples
  • “‘Either of us might be accused of it, you know.’ ‘Only neither of us is.’”
    Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (1861)
  • I am afraid it is quite clear, Cecily, that neither of us is engaged to be married to any one.
    Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)
  • I don’t think either of us means it, since humility is a word neither of us has ever heard of, but we are honorable men who stick to the bargain.
    Isaac Asimov, Asimov on Science Fiction (1981)
  • But neither of us knows, because a fight’s worth nothing if you know from the start that you’re going to win it.
    Markus Zusak, Fighting Ruben Wolfe (2000)

But notice how in more casual writing and speech, the word neither may be treated as plural.

Examples
  • Neither of these editions credit the translator.
  • When you get two people like myself and Marlon, it’s going to be good to watch because neither of us are going to back down.
    — “Stokes re-lives West Indies final, talks Samuels,” Durham Cricket (February 28, 2017)
  • If your ‘freedom’ relies on my oppression, then neither of us are free.
    Tweet by Rep. Ilhan Omar (January 29, 2020)

Neither vs. none

Use neither to negate two things. To speak of more than two things, use none.

Examples
  • Neither of my aunts has called me.
    two aunts
  • None of my friends has called me.
    any number of friends
Tip

None, which means “not one” and also “not any,” may be considered either singular or plural depending on whether you are referring to one of a group or to the entire group.

Examples
  • None of the penguins is green.
    Each one of the penguins is not green.
  • None of the penguins are green.
    All the penguins are not green.

Quick Quiz

Which of these is grammatically correct?
Choose from these answers
All done!
Which of these is/are acceptable in informal usage?
Choose from these answers
All done!
Which is preferred in formal writing?
Choose from these answers
All done!

Did You Know?

Abbreviations are not generally used at the start of a sentence.
Know more:Abbreviation at Start of Sentence