Neither: an Indefinite Pronoun

Neither sometimes serves as an indefinite pronoun, which the Chicago Manual of Style defines in part as follows:

An indefinite pronoun is one that generally or indefinitely represents an object . . . The most common are another, any, both, each, either, neither, none, one other, some, and such . . . Each, either, and neither are also called distribute pronouns because they separate the objects referred to from others referred to nearby.

Chicago goes on to say that as the subject of a verb, an indefinite pronoun is usually singular, and that the form of an indefinite pronoun isn’t affected by gender or person.

Here are two examples:

Neither of the men knows how to sew; for that matter, neither of the women knows how to sew, either!

Neither of the peaches is ripe.

See? Since men, women, and peaches are plural, you may think that the verbs in these examples should also be plural (men know, women know, peaches are ripe).

Think again, and look for the subject: It’s not men, women, or peaches; they have full-time jobs as objects of the preposition of.

Surprise, surprise! Neither is the subject of both sentences, acting as an indefinite pronoun.

Caution: Don’t confuse the indefinite pronoun neither with the pair of correlative conjunctions neither-nor, the topic of yesterday’s post: Neither-Nor and Subject-Verb Agreement.

Cheers,

Tara Treasurefield
Tara’s Writing Studio

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About 123clear

I translate foggy information into plain English.
This entry was posted in clear thinking, indefinite pronoun, parts of speech, singular, word usage. Bookmark the permalink.

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