How to use Both

Both

Both means ‘each of two’.

  • Both my parents were born in Scotland.

We do not normally use both when the meaning is not ‘each‘.

  • My two brothers carried the piano upstairs. (More natural than Both my brothers carried the piano upstairs – they didn’t each carry it separately.)

 Both and Both of

Before a noun with a determiner (e.g. the, my, these), both and both of are both possible.

  • She’s eaten both (of) the chops.
  • Both (of) these oranges are bad.
  • He lost both (of) his parents when he was a child.

We often drop the or a possessive after both; of is not used in this case.

  • She’s eaten both chops. (NOT … both of chops)
  • He lost both parents when he was a child.

 the not used before both

Note that we do not put the before both.

  • both (the) children (NOT the both children)

personal pronouns: both of

With personal pronouns, we use both of + us/you/them. Both of us/you/ them can be a subject or object.

  • Both of them can come tomorrow.
  • She’s invited both of us.
  • Mary sends both of you her love.

We can put both after pronouns used as objects.

  • She’s invited us both.
  • Mary sends you both her love.

But this structure is not used in complements (after be) or in short answers.

  • Who broke the window – Sarah or Alice? ~ It was both of them.
    (NOT … them both.)
  • Who did she invite? Both of us. (NOT…US both.)

Both with a verb

When both refers to the subject of a clause, it can go with the verb, in ‘midposition’ 

  • We can both swim.
  • Those oranges were both bad.
  • My sisters both work in education.
  • The children have both gone to bed.

Note that these meanings can also be expressed by using both (of) with a subject (see above).

  • Both of us can swim.
  • Both (of) the children have gone to bed.

Negative structures

Instead of both … not, we normally use neither.

  • Neither of them is here. (NOT Both of them are not here.)

both … and

We often balance this structure, so that the same kind of words or expressions follow both and and.

  • She’s both pretty and clever. (adjectives)
  • I spoke to both the Director and her secretary. (nouns)
  • She both dances and sings. (verbs)

However, unbalanced sentences with both … and are common. Some people
prefer to avoid them.

  • She both dances and she sings. (both + verb; and + clause)
  • I both play the piano and the violin.

Both cannot begin a complete clause in this structure.

  • You can both borrow the flat and (you can) use our car. (BUT NOT Both you can borrow the flat and you can use the car.)

Exercise:

There are 10 questions in this quiz. 

1. Complete this sentence.
Do ____ of you have any money I can borrow?

A. neither
B. Both
C. either

2. Which sentence is correct?

A. Neither of them lives here.
B. Neither of they live here.
C. Neither Alice or Mark live here.

3. Which sentence is NOT correct?

A. Both boys like hamburgers.
B. Both of boys like hamburgers.
C. Both of the boys like hamburgers.

4.Which word goes in the space?
Neither my uncle ___ my aunt could come to the party.

A. or
B. nor
C. and

5. Which word completes the sentence?
Neither of ___ likes rap music.

A. they
B. then
C. them

6. Which word completes the sentence?
____ boy brought a coat.

A. Neither
B. Either
C. Both

7. Which word completes the sentence?
Feel free to talk to ____ us.

A. either of
B. both
C. neither of

8. Which question is correct?

A. Do either of your parents have a degree?
B. Do either your parents have a degree?
C. Do either of parents have a degree?

9. Complete the sentence.
Both my mum ___ my dad drive.

A. nor
B. or
C. and

10. Which sentence is correct?

A. Neither us have any money.
B. Neither of us has any money.
C. We neither have any money.

Answers:

  1. C
  2. A
  3. B
  4. B
  5. C
  6. A
  7. A
  8. A
  9. C
  10. B
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