Conjunction Combinations – Both/And, Either/Or, Neither/Nor, Not Only/But Also

Michael Confusing Words 1 Comment


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There are a few different English exams, but for American English, both TOEIC and TOEFL are the most common. I think either TOEIC or TOEFL can give you a fair assessment of your English skill, but TOEFL not only tests reading and listening, but also writing and speaking. Neither luck nor your good looks will help you get a good score on these exams. For that, you need to study.

For today’s English lesson, we’re going to look at four common conjunction patterns that often get tested on English exams like TOEFL & TOEIC. Have a look once more at the paragraph above, and then check today’s lesson.

The combination both/and indicates that the two items are equally presented and included. The grammar is both A and B:

  • I like both chocolate and vanilla ice cream.
  • Both Greg and his wife are big Yankee fans.
  • We have a lot of time today, so we can both visit the museum and see a movie.

The combination either/or indicates that there is a choice between the two choices, and only one can be selected:

  • You can have either ice cream or cheesecake for dessert, so please chose one.
  • Either Jack or Jim will go to the meeting next week.
  • We don’t have a lot of time today, so we can either visit the museum or see a movie.

The combination neither/nor indicates that neither of the two choices can be selected. In other words, neither choice is available:

  • You can have neither chocolate nor vanilla ice cream. We have just strawberry left.
  • Neither Greg nor his wife are hockey fans.
  • We have no free time today, so we can neither visit the museum nor see a movie.

The combination not only/but also is similar to both/and because it shows that both items presented are included. However, the item after not only is normally something we expect the speaker to say, whereas the item after but also is often something unexpected:

  • I not only like to eat cake and cookies, but I also enjoy baking.
  • Greg and his wife are not only big Yankee fans, but they also route for the Rangers.
  • Not only is it raining, but it is also supposed to snow later tonight.

Study these sentences, and try to memorize the patterns.
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