RE. Can "either" be used if there are three or more selections?

Subject: RE. Can "either" be used if there are three or more selections?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 4 Oct 2001 15:00:21 -0400

John Posada wonders: <<"If you tab past the third field without entering a
check mark in either of the three fields, a message is displayed." Does
either only apply when you have two choices or can I use it if there are
three or more choices? Should I be using "any" instead of "either"?>>

"Either" has traditionally restricted to a choice of two alternatives, and
although some less careful writers have begun using it for any number of
alternatives, this is by no means widely accepted. In this case, a perfectly
good, broadly known and understood alternative exists ("any", as you
suggested), and that suggests you shouldn't accept the more permissive--and
wrong--usage. Accepting a questionable usage isn't such a horrible sin when
no good alternatives exist and modern usage is shifting towards the
questionable usage; that's not the case here.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that
English is about as pure as a cribhouse [We're Happily Overcoming Repulsive
E-mailfiltering]. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has
pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle
their pockets for new vocabulary."-- James D. Nicoll


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