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either...or/both x and y

You have words - now what do you do with them?

either...or/both x and y

Postby Enigma » Mon Feb 22, 2010 5:55 am

As we have already discussed, 'both x and y' can have a combinatory or segregatory meaning.

Do you think this sentence is OK, or do you think it is unclear whether the conjoins are combinatory or mutually exclusive?

A story is the retelling of an event, both fictional and nonfictional.

Would you prefer the sentence to be written as below, to avoid any misinterpretations?

A story is the retelling of an event, either fictional or nonfictional.


It is a characteristic of reduced clauses, both adverbial and relative, to be non-finite.

This, I feel, clearly has a segregatory meaning.

What is the difference (if any) between using 'both x and y' and 'either or' in such cases?
What you see, yet can not see over, is as good as infinite. ~Thomas Carlyle
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Postby Audiendus » Mon Feb 22, 2010 9:43 am

The crucial difference is that 'event' in the first example is singular, but 'clauses' in the second example is plural. A single event cannot be both fictional and nonfictional, so you must use 'either'. In the second example, you are talking about a characteristic that both types of clauses (not just one or the other) have, so you must use 'both'.
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Postby Enigma » Mon Feb 22, 2010 4:36 pm

Audiendus wrote:The crucial difference is that 'event' in the first example is singular, but 'clauses' in the second example is plural. A single event cannot be both fictional and nonfictional, so you must use 'either'. In the second example, you are talking about a characteristic that both types of clauses (not just one or the other) have, so you must use 'both'.


How silly of me-- I should have written it thus. Do both work now?

Stories are the retelling of events, both fictional and nonfictional.

(Stories are the retelling of both fictional events and nonfictional events).

Stories are the retelling of events, either fictional or nonfictional.

(Stories are the retelling of either fictional events or nonfictional events.)

I know that the events are a characteristic of both, not either or, but since the conjoins are mutually exclusive, can't either be used to convey the same meaning?
What you see, yet can not see over, is as good as infinite. ~Thomas Carlyle
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Postby Audiendus » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:13 am

Enigma wrote:Stories are the retelling of events, both fictional and nonfictional.

Stories are the retelling of events, either fictional or nonfictional.

I think they both work, but the "either" version sounds better.
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