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Note 45 – either…or (coordinating conjunctions)

Either…or (a pair of coordinating conjunctions)

In note 43, I blogged about conjunctions explaining that they are a type of word that joins together phrases, clauses or words (as cited in John Seeley’s A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation).  Today I’m going to blog about how to use a pair of conjunctions, in particular either…or.

John Seeley explains that a pair of coordinating conjunctions are “used to link items which have the same grammatical status”.  People sometimes make common error is to put them in the wrong place but these can usually be correct by rearranging the sentence.

The right place to put a pair of coordinating conjunctions

To think of this sentence for this example, I came up with two clauses or phrases. 

  • The brown coat that I like
  • A birthday present for Jack

Which one of these sentences have been linked correctly using either…or?

(1a) Either I will buy the brown coat that I like or a birthday present for Jack

(1b) I will buy either the brown coat that I like or a birthday present for Jack


Both the brown coat and a birthday present have the same grammatical status. To make the sentence grammatically correct, the words either and then or need to be placed separately before each of these parts of the sentence. Unfortunately in (1a) the word either was not placed before the brown coat, whereas in (1b) it was.  The correct sentence is therefore (1b).

Other examples of pairs of coordinating conjunctions

  • Both…and (used in first line in the paragraph above – quite by accident)
  • Neither…nor (I will blog about this another day)

My thoughts: This is one of those rules that you will never get wrong once you know how it should be done.  If this is something you are finding confusing, just look out for coordinating conjunctions when you are reading anything and you will soon get the hang of it.  If I think of some more examples I will add to this blog.

Hope you’ve enjoyed your day

Until tomorrow…


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Twitter: @madeirasandra and @tipsandluxuries

Reference list:

John Seely  The Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation, USA


About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Subjects I tend to blog about are life skills, parenting, decluttering, worklife balance, etc. At the moment I am on a decluttering mission creating space in my house, garden and mind. I have challenged myself to do at least ten minutes a day and write about it. Have a good day! Sandra Freelance Writer


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