Speak Good English

BY: Hannah A Amoah

It has become too common these days to hear and see sentences such as:
1. I suspect either Kofi, Sam or Mansa to have taken my pen.
2. He gave all the two boys equal punishment.
3. None of the twins is my friend.
4. We will surely meet again one day or the other.
5. The incident took place somewhere last year.
Needless to say,  all these five sentences are incorrect.

The first three are incorrect because the words either, all and none used in sentences 1, 2 and 3, respectively, have been used incorrectly.
In English,  certain words are limited by number, which means that those words can be used only with a particular number of persons, items, etc.
These words that are limited by number include both, either, neither, each other, one another, between, among, all, none, etc.
For instance, the word both is used strictly with two things or persons and never with three or more.
Indeed, so strictly is both attached to the number two that when we use either of the two words in a sentence, we need not use the other.
So it is incorrect to  say or write:
Both of the two boys are my friends.
We should rather say or write:
Both boys are my friends.
The two boys are my friends.
Now, in the first of the five sentences above, we have the word either, which is limited in its use to the  number two, just like both.
But in the sentence, we have mentioned three people --- Kofi, Sam and Mansa --- which do not match the word either.
Indeed,  either...or means one of two things or persons mentioned, for which reason either...or CANNOT be used with more than two things or persons.
The correct sentence should be:
I suspect Kofi, Sam or Mansa to have taken my pen.
But if the suspects are just two, we can say or write:
I suspect either Kofi or Sam to have taken my pen.
The word used incorrectly in sentence 2 is all, which must be used with three or more things or persons,  never with two, as it has been used in the sentence.
The correct sentence should be:
He gave the two boys equal punishment.
He gave both boys equal punishment.
If the boys concerned are more than two, then we can use the word all, as in:
He gave all the 10 boys equal punishment.