Using neither...nor with ever




I never drink tea. I never drink coffee.

I wonder how I can connect the above sentences using neither...nor. Is it correct:

I drink neither ever tea nor ever coffee.


Posted 2015-05-15T13:19:43.680

Reputation: 2 141



The simplest way to combine the sentences is to use the coordinating conjunction "or":  "I never drink tea or coffee."  That works, but it doesn't use a correlative conjunction.

The simplest correlative conjunction for this sentence is "either ... or":  "I never drink either tea or coffee."  This also works, but it doesn't use the exclusionary conjunction "neither ... nor".

There is a simple, obvious structure that uses "neither ... nor":  "I drink neither tea nor coffee."  The problem with this version is that the notion of "ever" ("never" in the original sentences) has been lost.

The sentence "I ever drink neither tea nor coffee" doesn't seem well-formed.  The best I can do is tack the adverb on the end of the sentence: 

I drink neither tea nor coffee, ever.

I can't explain why "I ever drink neither tea nor coffee" seems ill-formed.  I can, however, explain why "I drink neither ever tea nor ever coffee" doesn't work.  The "ever" is an adverb.  Placing it in front of "tea" and "coffee" makes it look like it's trying to be an adjective.

Gary Botnovcan

Posted 2015-05-15T13:19:43.680

Reputation: 12 044

"I ever drink neither tea nor coffee" is ill-formed because it's like saying "I always drink [not that!]": the absoluteness of "ever" clashes with the absoluteness of "neither/nor" and the result is confusing. You always drink what? – Nathan Tuggy – 2015-05-15T17:00:02.970

Never thought of using ever at the end of a sentence for emphasis. Thanks! – Mori – 2015-05-16T07:23:09.387


The idiomatic ways to say this:

I never drink tea or coffee.

I drink neither tea nor coffee.

I don't drink tea or coffee.

P.S. If "ever" is a requirement:

I don't ever drink tea or coffee.


Posted 2015-05-15T13:19:43.680

Reputation: 116 610

1"I drink neither tea nor coffee." It's good, but it connects these two sentences: "I don't drink tea. I don't drink coffee." – Mori – 2015-05-15T13:35:09.927

Sorry, I don't understand your comment. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2015-05-15T13:36:55.903

Just edited my question. Sorry if it wasn't clear! (Actually I got it from an exercise that asks learners to connect some sentences with neither...nor). – Mori – 2015-05-15T13:46:49.323

If you are connecting two different activities (requiring different verbs): I neither drink coffee nor eat meat. But if you're connecting two things in the same class (governed by the same verb): I drink neither tea nor coffee. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2015-05-15T13:51:07.247

1The problem is it leaves out the emphatic adverb ever. – Mori – 2015-05-15T13:52:51.563

3"ever" is there, but camouflaged, in the word "never". Never = not ever. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2015-05-15T13:57:50.613

2I think that that's Mori's point, @TRomano. The original sentences contain the word "never", but your sole "neither ... nor" example doesn't contain the word "ever". – Gary Botnovcan – 2015-05-15T15:18:30.563

@Gary Botnovcan: The OP's example I drink neither ever tea nor ever coffee is ungrammatical. One can ASK: "Do you ever drink tea or coffee?" And one can reply, "No, I never drink tea or coffee" or "No, I don't ever drink tea or coffee". But "neither ever" is not OK. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2015-05-15T17:24:53.583


The examples in TRomano's answer are the ones I would expect to actually hear. However, if you really want a grammatical sentence with some combination of 'nor', 'neither', 'never', and 'ever':

  • I never drink coffee, nor do I ever drink tea.

There are several issues at play here. One is that we need the correct number of negatives. I can't squeeze 'neither' into there, as we already have a negative from 'never'.

  • I drink neither tea nor coffee, ever.

Can't squeeze 'never' into there, as we already have a negative from 'neither'.

Compare to

  • I drink either tea or coffer never.

This is a pretty odd phrasing. Can't use 'neither' or 'nor' with 'either'.

Weird inverted phrasings:

  • Never is tea drank by me, nor do I drink coffee.
  • Never is tea drank by me, neither is coffee.


Posted 2015-05-15T13:19:43.680

Reputation: 3 272


Again, TRomano's list of idioms is great. I just wanted to add that if you happened to say "I drink neither ever tea nor ever coffee." I would understand what you meant. In fact, everyone I know would understand what you meant - it would sound unusual or unexpected, but you would be conveying the intended meaning.

If you were a spy, trying to convince us that you had been born and raised in Chicago, you would have failed miserably. But, if you were just trying to tell us that you never drink tea or coffee, then you would have succeeded.

The idiomatic use of double-negatives in English varies widely, and can sound perfectly ordinary in many situations. For example, a quick internet search for "I ain't doin nothin" will produce a slew of songs with that precise lyric. It isn't double-negatives that make that particular phrasing uncommon - it's the phrasing.


Posted 2015-05-15T13:19:43.680

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