Bob is tall, either.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by britneyM, Jun 18, 2008.

  1. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    I'd like to understand the usage of 'either' and 'too.'

    Question 1
    My textbook says 'either' cannot be used at the end of a positive sentence and 'too' cannot be used at the end of a negative sentence, i.e. s12 and s21 are correct and s11 and s22 are incorrect.
    Is that right?

    s11: Bob is tall, either.
    s12: Bob is tall, too.

    s21: Bob is not tall, either.
    s22: Bob is not tall, too.

    Question 2
    But my textbook doesn't say anything about why.
    Oxford Pocket English Dictionary says 'too' means 'in addition.' If 'too' does mean 'in addition,' I think s22 should be correct too.
    The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language says 'either' means 'likewise.' If 'either' does mean 'likewise,' I think s11 should be correct too.
    I understand why s12 is correct. s12 is correct because, I think, 'too' in s12 means 'in addition.'

    What does 'either' in s11 mean? Or why is s11 incorrect?

    Question 3
    What does 'too' in s22 mean? Or why is s22 incorrect?

    Thank you.
  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In a sense your question is asking why a broom is called a broom and not a bucket :)
    The words are used as you understand them.
    The dictionary, trying to explain what they mean, uses terms that are similar - but not identical - in meaning.

    So although too means in addition, you can't substitute in addition for too.
    Either means likewise, but you can't substitute likewise for either.

    That's enough philosophical waffle :)

    s11 Bill is tall, either:
    - is incorrect, so I can't explain what either means.
    It is incorrect because we don't use either in that sense.
    The OED definition of either may be helpful:
    Any more than the other.

    s22 Bill is not tall, too:
    - is incorrect, so I can't explain what too means :)
    We don't use too like that.
    A corresponding definition of too would be:
    As much as the other.
  3. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    Thank you very much for the reply.

    I understand s11 and s22 are incorrect.
    But I'm sorry and it's still tough for me to understand why.
    If it's difficult to tell why, would you please tell me what you feel to see s11 and s22? It will help me to understand why.
    Any feeling is OK. For examples, they might be as follows:
    feeling 1: s11 and s22 are weird. Because either in s21 means 'either of them is not tall,' but too in s22 doesn't mean that.
    feeling 2: s11 and s22 are funny. They are understandable but nobody says that.
    feeling 3: s11 and s22 are ridiculous. My school teacher also said so.

    That is to say, any feeling is OK. I need your feelings. They are the only thing that helps me to undestand why. Or I could feel as you feel after I understand your feelings.
    Would you tell me what you feel to see s11 and s22?
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2008
  4. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    I would say that I fall somewhere between feeling 2 and feeling 3. I can really stretch and imagine a case where s22 would work, but it would be a very unusual situation. s11 simply doesn't work. The "signal" that "either" gives us in this context is of a negative meaning. My first reaction would be that you accidentally left "not" out. I might go so far as to correct you in a conversation by saying, "You mean 'Bob is not tall, either', don't you?" I would assume that either I misheard or you misspoke.

    It is such an ingrained pattern that my mind only wants to interpret it as a mistake; the negation must have been left out.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2008
  5. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    Would you give me 'a case where s22 would work'?
    Such an unusual situation has to help me a lot.
  6. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Britney, I honestly think that trying to find you a situation where s22 would "work" is not a good idea. It would have to be a situation where a negative was being treated as a positive: a recipe for confusion!

    The pattern is as you've been taught: negative + either, positive + too. Native English speakers have learnt the same pattern:)
  7. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    Question 1
    Even if it is 'a recipe for confusion,' I'd like to know what it is if it does exist.

    Question 2
    What do school teachers say or how do they teach when they teach you native English speakers the problem of s11 to s22?
  8. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    There isn't an 'it'. We'd have to invent some peculiar hypothetical situation in which a negative was treated as a positive.
    They don't teach it, we learn the pattern naturally:)
  9. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    I apologize if I caused any confusion by saying that s22 is possible. As Loob said, it would be an odd situation where the negative was treated as a positive in some sort of ironic or humorous sense. It would be the equivalent of making a mistake on purpose in order to emphasize a point. I wouldn't suggest learning it as a valid construction.

    I was simply trying to say that s11 is unimaginable in any circumstances as a correct construction, while s22 has the possibility of being used only in extremely rare cases.
  10. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    Hello panjandrum, JamesM, Loob,

    Thank you very much for your replies.
    I still don't undersand why but now I know what you feel to hear s11 and s22. Your feelings help me a lot to imagine why and now I think I can feel almost the same as you do.

    Thank you.

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