English is either an amazing example of language evolution and the melting pot, or a convoluted mess designed to confuse and agitate those trying to learn it.
The sheer number of synonyms, homonyms, and homophones that exist in English, added to the number of exceptions to all rules, the borrowings, slang, and other inconsistencies can make learning English extremely difficult, especially for those whose native tongue is more orderly.
Some of the most notoriously difficult words in English for newcomers are either/neither and farther/further.
Either Or, Neither Nor
Either and neither are used to offer a choice between two things. Basically, either indicates one of two choices, and neither indicates that none of the choices is selected. Either is probably the easier concept, as it indicates a clear choice. For example, if there are two choices of beverages, coffee and tea, you could say
I will have either coffee or tea.
Either indicates that you will choose one of these options, but not both. Either is always coupled with or as it always indicates a choice being made or offered. Either can be used with all choices, whether objects, people, or actions:
We can either go to the movies or go shopping.
You can invite either Fred or Doris, but not both.
When responding to a negative statement, adding not to either indicate that there are no viable choices. For example, if no one is going to the movies, you could say
Fred is not going to the movies and I’m not either.
Neither is actually another way of saying not either nor is always coupled with nor instead of or. For example, you could restate the last example as
Neither Fred nor I are going to the movies.
Neither can also be used to indicate a negative for both choices in a statement, such as
Neither of us is going.
Farther In and Further Up
Farther and further are similarly confusing to many people when learning English. Farther indicates more far away in the sense of physical distance. Further indicates more far away in a non-physical sense.
So, if you want to tell people that one movie theatre is more distant than the other, you would use farther:
The Cineplex 12 is farther than the Multiplex 16.
If you wanted to know which theatre has been chosen, though, you would use further, because it is not a physical distance:
Are we any further on choosing a movie?
Just to make it even more complicated, further is also used as a verb in English, meaning “to advance”. For example:
This movie will further your love your Brad Pitt.
Neither/Either and Further/Farther are very difficult to nail down in terms of clearly understanding their differences. Most English speakers are very tolerant of mistakes with these words, luckily, so you can usually get your meaning across, but practice these when you can until you know their distinctions effortlessly!
Philip Hicks is a guest blogger who blogs on behalf of One Hour Translation, a professional translation firm that specializes in language Translation Services. To know more please visit http://www.onehourtranslation.com.