Pronunciation: either, neither

Discussion in 'English Only' started by kyuss, Nov 5, 2004.

  1. kyuss Member

    Spain / Spanish & Galician
    Every dictionary would tell you that the first syllable in the words either and neither can be pronounced either as [-aI-] or as [-I:-]. My questions are:
    - Is any of them preferred?
    - Which one is most often used?
    - Are there variations depending on the region?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Josefina New Member

    Capital Federal
    Argentina- Spanish,English

    Good morning kyuss! In AmE they pronounce both words with [i:]
    In BrE it is with [ai ]. From Cambridge Pronouncing Dict.
    Hope it helps, Jose :p
  3. Artrella Banned

    I agree with Jose, at least that's the way Teacher teaches us. Art
  4. tim Member

    Australia, English
    And if it's worth anything, both are common and acceptable in Australian English (or should I say, either one is acceptable), though I think there is a tendency towards /i:/. Although that may just be because that is how I pronounce them.
  5. jacinta Senior Member

    USA English
    In the U.S., both pronunciations are used. It depends on the person. Some may mistakenly believe that one pronunciation is more proper than the other but the fact is that both are correct and used indiscriminately.
  6. dave

    dave Senior Member

    UK - English
    Both are used in the UK. I'm fairly sure I use both prounciations myself, but thinking about it I probably use /i:/ more than [ai ]. I have no idea what determines which I use!
  7. Artrella Banned


    Dave, at school they say that BrE is being influenced by AmE. So it's quite probable that nowadays the British pronounce "neither" as /naider/. At least
    Teacher says so!!!
  8. lercarafridi Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    Non native English students are taught the form /ai/ in elementary and primary school. Besides, the British media also pronounces it that way, so this diphthong is deemed closer to the origin of nowadays´ language (received pronunciation). :)
  9. Irell Senior Member

    The Netherlands-Dutch

    Is the 'ei' pronounced like the 'e' in 'be' or the 'ye' in 'bye'?

    Thanks a lot!

  10. RTB

    RTB Member

    England, English
    Take a look at this online pronunciation resource:

    You'll see that in US-English they pronounce the 'E' but in British-English we pronounce the 'EI'.
    However, both are equally acceptable on both sides of the Atlantic. I know many English people who say Either and many Americans who say Either.
    It really doesn't matter.

  11. David

    David Banned

    No, the words are spelled either and neither. I was just trying to indicate two possible pronunciation. ei as Continental i, or ei as in German.
  12. Irell Senior Member

    The Netherlands-Dutch
    RTB, thanks for the link! there it sounds the way I use to say it but my friend always 'corrects' me. But, if it doesn't matter anyway... ;)

    Thank you all for the quick answers
  13. supercrom Banned

    Cercado de Lima, Lima, Perú
    Homo peruvianus, practising AE n' learning BE

    How do you pronounce this word?

    I know that it is sometimes ['aɪðəʳ] or ['ɪ:ðəʳ].
    I also know that in AE you only use the second pronunciation.
    In BE, do you pronounce both forms?

    Thanks a lot

  14. garryknight Senior Member

    Kent, UK
    UK, English
    I tend to use the first, but here in the UK you'll hear it pronounced either way (or should that be either way?). I've even heard some people pronounce it both ways in the same conversation.
  15. Phryne

    Phryne Senior Member

    New York City
    Sorry, we can't see the simbols well. Did you mean [ər], [ajðər]?

    In the US, both ways are used.
  16. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    In the Uk both are said fairly equally. In fact it seems to me to be one of those rare instances in language where two options mean the same thing and are pretty much equally used.
  17. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Hey Crom.LB;

    Just to add more to the pile...

    Here we say it two ways...either...(ee-ther)--stress on the EE....and (I-ther)..stress on the i....

    te gato;)
  18. Axl Senior Member

    England, English
    Traditionally, I-ther was the British way; and while Americans favoured EE-ther, they always used both.
    However, both forms are now used in the UK as well, though I-ther is still more common, I think.
    I think it has a lot to do with the infuence of American culture and particularly Hollywood.
    <<off topic>>
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2008
  19. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    I almost never hear EE-ther any more, and I'm mystified about it. There seems to be a trend that is changing usage. The reason I've noticed it is that I've always used EE-ther, and it's given as the first pronunciation in Merriam-Webster. I associated I-ther with England (UK) and with parts of the US, New England for instance.

    But I think it's changing. The problem is, I keep trying to listen for it and only notice it when I hear it pronounced the way I don't (I-ther).

    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2008
  20. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Hey all;
    Here I remedy that by saying...eeither..ither..or...

    Crom; LB..Hope it helped...
    te gato;)
  21. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    But I'm truly curious. It seems as though someone said, "I-ther sounds more 'educated'", and people are now using it exclusively, not only on the news, but even in sit coms.

    I notice things like that because the difference between BE and AE fascinates me, but I'm also fascinated by changes in language here. I have no preference, just wondered if other people here had noticed the same thing I have…
  22. supercrom Banned

    Cercado de Lima, Lima, Perú
    Homo peruvianus, practising AE n' learning BE
    I decided to make a poll about pronunciation of these words in English. The motivation for doing this was the two different ways these words in British English. Sometimes I don't know how to pronounce netiher (['naɪðəʳ], ['nɪ:ðəʳ]) or either (['aɪðəʳ], ['ɪ:ðəʳ]) .
    I think the first pronunciation is typically British, I am not sure about it, and the second is very American (norteamericano: estadounidense y canadiense). But I noticed British use both pronunciations, so I just would like to know the preferences of British English-speakers.

    Thanks a lot for participating in this poll.

    Pls, don't forget to correct any mistake you find in this message.

  23. Phryne

    Phryne Senior Member

    New York City
    Americans pronounce either way as well.

    So... British speakers only?? :(
  24. Philippa

    Philippa Senior Member

    Britain - English
    Hi Crom
    I used to say only either and neither (with an 'ee' sound) and then I was told that that was the American pronunciation. After probably a decade of sort of trying to change to the 'eye' sound I now say both, and I never know one I'm going to say!! :D
    Philippa :)
  25. ceirun Senior Member

    UK / English
    I think I tend to use ['naɪðəʳ] and ['aɪðəʳ] (i.e. the ones with the 'I' sound), but I definitely pronounce it the other way sometimes too. Not too sure what the reason for saying one or the other in a particular sentence might be though.
    I think there was another thread about this not so long ago in the English-only forum (although I can't seem to find the thread in the search box), so maybe you can read a bit more about it there.
  26. Whodunit

    Whodunit Senior Member

    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    I learned '(n)either' with the 'I' sound like in fine, because it's easy to read for me, since I'm German and in German we almost always pronounce 'ei' this way. It's easy to remember, but I would understand both ways.
  27. jacinta Senior Member

    USA English
    I haven't voted because you say you want only the British pronunciation. I don't understand your motivation in wanting only British. Do I sense a touch of bias in that no matter how Americans pronounce these words, they don't have a clue as to what the "correct" pronunciation is?

    This is a matter of personal choice and also how you are taught the words early on. Both of my sons had the same 3rd grade teacher who pronounced them as "aither" and "naither". I pronounce them eether and neether, EXCEPT in the phrase " It's naither here nor there". For some reason I pronounce it differently in that context. Haven't a clue as to why! I have no lasting effect on my sons' pronunciations, which is fine by me. That teacher had quite an effect on them.
  28. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    I didn't vote because I'm not a native speaker. But I always say [naither]. Why ? Because it's the British pronounciation (or so I thought before I read the posts above). I learnt a good deal of my English in England (+ at school).
    In addition, american pronounciation and accent in general are more "fashionable" among French people and as I always flatter myself not to conform to fashions.....:)
  29. Ari7 New Member

    United States
    Argentina (Español, English)
    Hi all.
    Is there any difference in meaning when the word "either" is pronounced "eeder" or "eye-der"? I hope you get what I mean with the rough attempt at a phonetic spelling.
  30. Pedro Arteaga Senior Member

    Oregon USA
    German USA
    Dear Ari

    there are two ways of pronouncing it. In BE they use the "eye-der", in the US we use "eeder". :D don't worry about the phonetic spelling

    You may look up the correct version of phonetic spelling at
  31. emma42 Senior Member

    North East USA
    British English
    Hi Ari. In fact, there is disagreement in BE about the pronunciation. As far as I am concerned, eye-ther will do! Sorry, eeeeether. Oh no! I mean eye-ther...

    There is also "neither".
  32. andrew0991

    andrew0991 New Member

    USA- English + Cantonese + French + Spanish + Italian
    Okay so....either can be pronounced in both ways
    "eeder" and "eye-der". I personally use both of them, so it's not an issue you have to worry about...just use them as you would normally do.

    -Andrew (S.I, N.Y.)
  33. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    Well, to start with, neither is spelled nor pronounced with a "d;" it's a "th."

    Like in BE, in AE both prounuciations are acceptable.
  34. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    In my experience, and totally to my surprise, "eye-ther" seems to be preferred in book recordings (by readers) and by news-people (TV).

    I've noticed it also in TV series. I think there is a switch going on right now. If you check Merriam Webster, it still shows "ee-ther" as the first pronunciation.

    I say "ee-ther" and grew up thinking "eye-ther" was only used primarily in places such as New England.

    However, neither (nee-ther, neye-ther) pronunciation is wrong!

  35. fatt86 New Member

    Español - Costa Rica
    Hi, I am learning English and on TV I hear people saying the word "either" in different ways, could you tell me when to use one and when to use the other.

  36. born in newyork Senior Member

    New York
    There's actually a song about this:

    You can say "EE-ther" or "EYE-ther." Neither pronunciation is better than the other. You can use either. I think most people stick with one or the other.

    (It's the same thing with "neither" as the song will tell you)
  37. runnery Senior Member

    Hi friends,

    Last time, I heard someone pronounced the letter "i" in "either "as the letter "e" in "ear", I always pronounce it as "I".Could you tell me which is more common in natvie speakers' view.

    Please correct me if you find any mistake in my above description.

  38. PocketWatch Member

    USA English
    I pronounce it like ee-ther, but I know people that pronounce it like ay-ther. People just pronounce it differently I guess like some English words.
  39. PeteLM New Member

    I live in New England (Connecticut), and most people I know say "ee-ther," although there is a smattering of "eye-ther." I always thought "eye-ther" sounded more stuffy, and it bothers me that everyone on TV seems to have been instructed to say "eye-ther," even when it doesn't fit the character. Most dictionaries list "ee-ther" first, and I'm sticking to it.
  40. wolfrain14 New Member

    French & English
    How do you pronounce the word Either? Or does it depend on the situation?

    My English teacher can't even answer me.
  41. Revontuli

    Revontuli Senior Member

    Hello Wolfrain14,

    Both pronunciations of ''either'' are correct.
  42. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)

    There is even a famous old song about that difference.

    In AE both are heard, but I think ee-ther is more common.
  43. wolfrain14 New Member

    French & English
    Thank you so much for your help :)
  44. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    If you look up either on this site, you will see that this question has been debated many times.

    My experience is this: in the past I believe that "EE ther", using "EE" as the sound in see and free, was more common in AE when considering the entire US. Obviously there have been regions where "EYE ther" (as in bye, fly, die) has dominated, and New England is just one.

    However, I believe there is a shift taking place right now. I notice that "EYE ther" seems to dominate in popular American TV series, in the news, and most noticeably in book recordings.

    I have no theories as to why this shift is occurring. However, I notice that is is rarely mentioned in such discussions.

  45. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Welcome to the forums, wolfrain14!

    This question has been asked a number of times before, as gaer says. If you put pronunciation either into Dictionary Look-up at the top of the page you'll find a list of several previous threads. {EDIT: link de-activated as threads now merged}

    It's always a good idea to check first to see if your question has been answered: indeed this is WordReference forum Rule 1

    The English Only forum rules are here - they include a lnk to the general WRF rules.

    I hope this helps :)
    Last edited: May 10, 2008
  46. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    The frustrating thing is that all the information I've found about the pronunication of "either" in AE is out-of-date. Not wrong. Just not accurate in representing a shift that is taking place.

    I listen to books for hours each day. My eyes are weak, and I started to listen book-CDs two or three years ago to reduce eye-strain.

    I have only heard "EE-ther" used by AE narraters a few times over the last couple years, and this includes thousands and thousands of occurrences of the word by at least a hundred different readers.

    The reason I noticed this and continue to notice it is that at the time I was growing up, "EE-ther" DID dominate in most of the US, and I have never said "EYE-ther" in my life. That's why the present dominance of "EYE-ther" jolts me. I don't object to it. But it's a striking change, and it's fairly recent.

    "EYE-ther" is used by people in parts of the US who never, ever used it a few decades ago.

    That's why "EYE-ther" now dominates in the US on TV. TV itself has an enormous impact on how people under 30 pronounce many words.

    Last edited: May 10, 2008
  47. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)

    But I wouldn't take the careful diction of books-on-tape narrators as an indicator of general speech trends.

    EEther is what I hear around me every day.
  48. keung Senior Member

    HongKong, China
    HI All,

    I’d like to know how do you pronouns “either” ?
    An on-line dictionary tell me it is “ I-da “, but I heard some say “ E-da “ on television.

    Thank !
  49. Bigote Blanco Senior Member

    Your choice! Both work
  50. keung Senior Member

    HongKong, China
    Thank you!

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