ENGLISHMain English Grammar



Some conjunctions as below are used in pairs:

1. Not only – but also 2. Either – or 3. Neither – nor 4. Both – and
5. Whether – or

They join PAIRS OF NOUNS/ADJECTIVES/ADVERBS/GERUNDS/PHRASES/CLAUSES. In other words we can say that the two items connected must be similar in kind, means either both should be nouns or both verbs, and like that. Each of the words of such conjunctions should be placed immediately before the words to be joined; e.g.

a) He visited not only Agra, but also Delhi. (Here the conjunction is ‘NOT ONLY– BUT ALSO’; And it’s joining Agra and Delhi. We see that both Agra and Delhi are nouns and each of the words of this conjunction is placed immediately before each of these nouns.)

b) EITHER take it OR receive it. (joining two verbs TAKE and RECEIVE)

c) The band not only played instruments, but also danced. (joining two verbs PLAYED and DANCED)

d) It is NEITHER beautiful NOR attractive. (joining two adjectives BEAUTIFUL and ATTRACTIVE)

e) I BOTH respect and admire him. (joining two verbs RESPECT and ADMIRE)

f) The directors wanted both to win and to receive recognition for their work. (joining two infinitives TO WIN and TO RECEIVE)

g) I do not care WHETHER you go OR stay. (Here WHETHER — OR is joining two clauses YOU GO and YOU STAY, where the subject of the second clause i.e. YOU is understood; it’s not joining two verbs GO and STAY.)

h) We asked not only what the children had learnt but also how they had learnt it. (joining two clauses WHAT THE CHILDREN HAD LEARNT and HOW THEY HAD LEARNT IT)

i) We walked through the hills not only when it was sunny, but also when it was raining. (joining two clauses WHEN IT WAS SUNNY and WHEN IT WAS RAINING)

j) I’ve taught English not only in India, but also in other countries. (joining two prepositional phrases IN INDIA and IN OTHER CONTRIES)

INCORRECT: He is not only a great football player, but also plays hockey well.
CORRECT: He is not only a great football player, but also a good hockey player.

INCORRECT: He ate not only the pizza, but also the soda.
CORRECT: He not only ate the pizza, but also drank the soda.

[In the sentence above though both PIZZA and SODA are nouns, you can’t join them in the manner shown above as PIZZA is eaten and SODA is drunk. Therefore we need to make it correct as shown.]

NOTE-I: While joining two clauses, negative conjunctions such as NOT ONLY — BUT ALSO and NETHER — NOR for emphasis can begin a sentence or clause. If so the verb is inverted, means we use the interrogative form of the verb; e.g.

Ram not only is going to Mumbai, but he’s also going to Goa.
= Not only is Ram going to Mumbai, but he’s also going to Goa.

She not only apologized but also sent me a card.
=Not only did she apologize but also sent me a card.

Ram is neither going to Mumbai, he is nor going to Goa.
= Neither is Ram going to Mumbai, nor is he going to Goa. 

But in case of ‘NEITHER – NOR’, if we begin a sentence with NEITHER, the second clause begins with NOR and the inverted form of the verb is also used with NOR as it’s a negative word.

NOTE-II: But when these conjunctions join words/phrases (not clauses) and are used in the beginning of a sentence, we do not use a helping verb before the subject; e.g.

Not only you but also I applauded the performance. (Joining two pronouns YOU and I)

 NOTE-III: The two verbs must be in the same form to make the relationship clear; e.g.

INCORRECT: She did not only type the letter but also posted it.
CORRECT: She not only typed the letter but also posted it.

NOTE-IV: BOTH takes AND with it, not AS WELL AS, ELSE, etc.; e.g.

INCORRECT: She both respects as well as admires me.
CORRECT: She both respects and admires me.


A) ALSO after BUT is not always necessary, and can be replaced by TOO or AS WELL. We use TOO or AS WELL at the end of the second clause. We use them for emphasis; e.g.

They were not only friendly, but also helpful.
= They were not only friendly, but helpful too/as well.

B) If the subject and verb are present in the second clause, BUT can also be removed. In that case we use ALSO, TOO, AS WELL. If we use ALSO we use it after the subject, if we use TOO or AS WELL we use them in the end position; e.g.

i) He not only raises dogs, but he also takes care of cats.
= He not only raises dogs, he also takes care of cats.
= He not only raises dogs, he takes care of cats too/as well.

ii) I enjoy English because it is not only useful, but it is also interesting.
= I enjoy English because it is not only useful, it is also interesting.
= I enjoy English because it is not only useful, it is interesting too/as well.

NOTE-I: We use ALSO, TOO, AS WELL with BUT only when things to be joined are different, however we use BUT alone when they are one; e.g.

a) We saw not only an executive but also the chief executive.  (means two executives, means different things.)
b) He is not only an executive but the chief executive. (means not different things)

C) The NOT ONLY – BUT ALSO construction can also be formed with similar meaning and constructions with NOT JUST – BUT ALSO, but this use is not very common; e.g.

It was not just fun, but also educational.

D) We can join a phrase with another phrase by BUT instead of BUT ALSO. When we join a phrase with another phrase beginning with any of BUT and BUT ALSO, we can omit them and can use a personal pronoun instead; e.g.

a) Nisha not only came to the party but also brought her mother.
= Nisha not only came to the party but brought her mother too/as well.
= Nisha not only came to the party, she brought her mother too/as well.

b) My interest in this magazine not only continued, but also increased.
= My interest in this magazine not only continued, but increased too/as well.
= My interest in this magazine not only continued, it increased too/as well.

E) When we join two clauses which have different subjects, the sentence must begin with NOT ONLY; e.g.

a) Not only was Vaibhav late, but also Sunita was late.
b) Not only were the transporters at strike, but also my car was out of order.

F) When we join two infinitives with NOT ONLY – BUT ALSO, we do it in the following manner:




a) It is important not only to know the truth in general, but also to speak the truth in particular.
= It is important to not only know the truth in general, but also speak the truth in particular.

b) The directors wanted not only to win but also to receive recognition for their work.
= The directors wanted to not only win but also receive recognition for their work.

2 & 3. ‘EITHER – OR’ & ‘NEITHER – NOR’

 A) After ‘NEITHER — NOR’ the verb is affirmative, not negative; e.g.

INCORRECT: Neither Ram nor she couldn’t solve the question.
CORRECT: Neither Ram nor she could solve the question.

B) When a clause begins with NEITHER or NOR after a negative clause, we invert the subject and the verb after NEITHER and NOR (means we use the helping verb before the subject). In fact we invert the verb when a sentence begins with any negative word; e.g.

INCORRECT: Pinki is not here, neither/nor I could find her in the park.
CORRECT: Pinki is not here, neither/nor could I find her in the park.

INCORRECT: Neither Ram is going to Mumbai, nor he is going to Goa.
CORRECT: Neither is Ram going to Mumbai, nor is he going to Goa.

C) We cannot use ‘EITHER — OR’ for a negative verb, it can only be used for affirmative and interrogative verbs; e.g.

INCORRECT: Can’t you EITHER write or type this document for me?
CORRECT: Can you either write or type this document for me?

D) ‘EITHER — OR + NEGATIVE VERB’ can replace ‘NEITHER — NOR’ except when ‘NEITHER — NOR’ is the subject of a verb; as,

INCORRECT: Either threats or arguments had not any effect on her.
CORRECT:  NEITHER threats nor arguments had any effect on her.

The watch is neither attractive nor inexpensive.
= The watch is not either attractive or inexpensive.


We use WHETHER — OR when we mention two or more alternatives.  We put WHETHER before the first alternative, and OR before the second one; e.g. 

a) I am unable to think whether to write it or type it.
b) He was failed to know whether Pooja was laughing or crying.

NOTE-I: To introduce two or more possibilities, the right pair of conjunction is WHETHER — OR; you can’t replace WHETHER by THAT or any other things; e.g.

a) I’m going, whether she likes it or not.
b) Someone has to tell her, whether it’s you or me.
c) Let’s face it – you’re going to be late whether you go by bus or train.

INCORRECT: I don’t know that he will come or not.
CORRECT: I don’t know whether he will come or not.

NOTE-II: When the two alternatives are exactly opposite, we don’t need to mention both of  them; e.g.

I don’t know whether he is in or out.
= I don’t know whether he is in.

Pooja wondered whether Rita had been happy or sad.
= Pooja wondered whether Rita had been happy.

NOTE-III: When the subject of the two clauses is the same, we can use WHETHER TO+V1 or WHETHER+CLAUSE. When the subjects are different, we have to use a clause, not TO+V1; e.g.

I’m not sure whether I’ll take tea or coffee.
= I’m not sure whether to take tea or coffee.

I’m not sure whether he’ll stay here for dinner or go somewhere else. 


We use WHETHER – OR NOT or WHETHER OR NOT to give an opposite alternative. We put OR NOT either at the end of the sentence or immediately after WHETHER; e.g.

a) I’m undecided whether to go there or not.
= I’m undecided whether or not to go there.

b) She didn’t ask whether we wanted to come or not.
= She didn’t ask whether or not we wanted to come.

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Maha Gupta

Maha Gupta

Founder of www.examscomp.com and guiding aspirants on SSC exam affairs since 2010 when objective pattern of exams was introduced first in SSC. Also the author of the following books:

1. Maha English Grammar (for Competitive Exams)
2. Maha English Practice Sets (for Competitive Exams)

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