'either to X or Y' or 'to either X or Y'?



Here's a question I read in a book:

Most of the non-Western countries have been subject either to total colonial rule or varying degrees of economic control.

The question is whether the bold part requires improvement or not.

I feel that have been subject to either should be the correct answer, but the book says that have been either subjected to is the correct answer. So, I am confused.


Posted 2016-09-27T17:15:20.950

Reputation: 63

Welcome to ELL.SE. Is your question about subject to versus subjected to or about word either? It is not clear as written. – choster – 2016-09-27T17:24:12.637

@choster Thanks for replying. My question is about the whole bold phrase of the sentence. If the bold phrase in the question is correct, or should it be replaced by the other bold phrase. – PSmita – 2016-09-27T17:27:16.013

This native US English speaker thinks that both versions are fine in informal speech, actually. Subject to means "being under domination, control, or influence", so that looks OK. As for the word order, maybe one is technically more correct than the other, but in everyday speech I think both are fine.

– stangdon – 2016-09-27T17:29:24.523

@stangdon so which option is technically more correct? – PSmita – 2016-09-27T17:30:54.703



This is more a question of good style than good grammar. When making lists of things, or comparing two things, it's good style to use the same sentence pattern for all the elements. For example, "Tomorrow we're planning to go boating, water skiing, and to scuba dive," is poor style. Better to say, "... boating, water skiing, and scuba diving."

Your example is a bit nit-picky, but the "to" is the problem word. As written the sentence is not as good as it could be, and should be "... subject either to total colonial rule or to varying degrees of economic control." Alternately it could be "... subject to either total colonial control or varying degrees of economic control."

So I agree that although neither sentence is actually "wrong", your sentence is better.


Posted 2016-09-27T17:15:20.950

Reputation: 85 521

As far as I have understood the question, non western countries have been subject to "something" and that something is either "colonial rule" or " varying" degree of economic control. Therefore subject to should precede either. But the explanation that the book has given is that "either(Conj.) comes before the verb(Subject) as the actions mentioned are different." – PSmita – 2016-09-27T17:38:23.997

1"Either comes before the verb if the actions mentioned are different"? If that's the rule the book goes by, then you'd want to have two different actions after "either". For example: "You can either eat dinner or (you can) watch television". Two different verbs, two different actions. Here both "total colonial rule" and "varying degrees of economic control" are the objects of "subject to" and so "either" should come after the verb (as they have it), as in "you can eat either your meat or your pudding". Sounds like the book is confused. – Andrew – 2016-09-27T18:58:39.280