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    #1

    either... or

    1) Either John or Peter will come here tomorrow.
    2) They hired men who were either tall or handsome.


    Could the 'either ... or' be interpreted inclusively in these sentences? In this case, if both John and Peter come here, sentence '1' will be correct and if they hire men who are both tall and handsome sentence '2' will be correct.

    ==============

    3) They hired men who were young, tall or handsome.


    Can't '3' be read in two ways:
    3a) They hired young men who were tall or handsome. (They hired men who were tall AND ALSO tall or handsome.)
    3b) They hired men who were young or tall or handsome.


    Gratefully,
    Navi

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: either... or

    1 and 2 can be inclusive.
    3b

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    #3

    Re: either... or

    "Either x or y" is exclusive. If you expect x alone, y alone, or both x and y, you should say "I expect x, y, or both of them."
    I am not a teacher.

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    #4

    Re: either... or

    Thank you both very much,

    Your answers seem to some extent contradictory to me. That doesn't bother me at all. I believe different people use language differently. I was trying to see how I would interpret those sentences in my own language and I came to the conclusion that they were a bit confusing.

    I guess Raymott would say that 3b could be inclusive and GoesStation would say it is exclusive.

    3b) They hired men who were young or tall or handsome.

    It is a bit confusing.

    Gratefully,
    Navi.

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    #5

    Re: either... or

    It is a bit confusing, but I doubt that being tall and handsome would mean that you would not be hired. Logically, if these qualities are desirable, then a combination would stand a candidate in good stead. I would go with the logic. If they wanted to be clear that only one quality would be accepted per candidate, they could have made it clearer. So 2 is inclusive to me. I think 3 would need to be rephrased to get 3a as the intended meaning to separate young from the other two.
    Last edited by Tdol; 26-Jan-2016 at 11:55.

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    #6

    Re: either... or

    If I had been told that either Peter or Mike was coming, I'd be surprised to find both of them at my door.

    Regarding "they hired men who were young or tall or handsome": to me, that rules out tall old men, handsome young men, etc. However, I'd probably think to myself, "they didn't mean to phrase it that way."

    Many writers are rather careless about the choice of and or or. In most cases, it's not a very important
    I am not a teacher.

  2. Raymott's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: either... or

    It's not always lazy writing. You have to know the context.
    "You can get that at either a supermarket or a pharmacy." This would normally be inclusive. It means you can get it at supermarkets and pharmacies.
    "Either John or Peter will come here tomorrow." isn't exclusive. It's non-committal. If both John and Peter usually come, the speaker may not know exactly who is coming, but is giving a guarantee that at least one will be there.

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    #8

    Re: either... or

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    If I had been told that either Peter or Mike was coming, I'd be surprised to find both of them at my door.
    A bigger surprise would be to find Jane or David on your doorstep. However, I agree that without more context, I'd be expecting one, though Raymott gives an example where it could be at least one.

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    #9

    Re: either... or

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    Many writers are rather careless about the choice of and or or.
    And to be fair, they can be slippery little blighters.

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    #10

    Re: either... or

    Thank you all very much,

    It is a relief to know that I am not the only one who finds said blighters slippery. I was seriously losing sleep over this one. Funnily enough, in spite of my obsessional nature, I do not lose sleep over grammar. And I very rarely dream about grammatical questions.

    We have 'and' and 'or' and nothing else. 'And/or' cannot be used in conversation (not really anyway).
    Being precise might come at an expense:

    A) Pete, Harry, Mike, or David will come here tomorrow, or any combination of the above.


    That is pretty precise but doesn't it sound outlandish. Maybe a writer would write it, but who would say it? I am not even sure it is correct.

    Gratefully AND respectfully.
    Navi.

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