quick "help!" question

meddy Megan.Eddy at MANUKAU.AC.NZ
Fri Mar 26 05:57:46 UTC 2004

Hi Laura

As I see it, you’re starting off with 2 verb phrases, or sentences:

1. Bob studied

2. Joe studied

If both are true and positive, you get:

3. Both Bob (studied = understood / silent) and Joe studied

If neither is true, you get:

4. Neither Bob (studied) nor Joe studied

If only one is true, but we’re not sure which:

5. Either Bob (didn’t study) or Joe didn’t study


Both Bob (didn’t study) and Joe didn’t study

can only really have the same meaning as your number 1, my number 4 above, where
neither of your initial statements is true. But this form sounds ungrammatical,
to me, anyway, so we opt for the "neither..." format where both are negative.

Was getting myself a little confused as I was doing this - but it sounds right
at the moment... hope it helps. Good luck.


sicola at dolphin.upenn.edu wrote:

> In my advanced grammar class, I've been working with my ESL students on
> agreement with words like "neither" "either" "both" etc.
> Some of them are having a hard time distinguishing and rationalizing the
> differences between:
> 1.  "Neither Bob nor Joe studied." = Bob didn't and Joe didn't (either).
> 2.  "Either Bob or Joe didn't study." = One studied, the other didn't, we
> don't know which one is which.
> 3.  "Both Bob and Joe didn't study." = Could have the same meaning as #1, OR
> #2, ie: not BOTH, just one.
> Can anyone more syntactically savvy help me with a more
> logical/mathematical/graphic (and SIMPLE) representation of why this is the
> case? The more I try to explain it, the more we go in circles and the more I
> start to question my own name.
> At this point, I'm not sure I even wrote these correctly in this e-mail!
> Thanks to anyone who has the magic bullet...
> Laura
> --

More information about the Edling mailing list