Uses of Both as various parts of speech

In this article, we will see:

  • the various ways ‘both’ can function in a sentence.
  • the various sentence structures/patterns involving ‘both’
  • various use cases of ‘both’, including some dos and don’ts.

Both as various parts of speech

‘Both’ can function as:

  • a pronoun,
  • an adjective or
  • a conjunction.

As a pronoun, or as an adjective ‘Both’ means the one as well as the other. As a conjunction ‘Both’ means alike or equally.

Both of us were going to play for the national team. (both – pronoun)
Both matches have been cancelled. (both – adjective; matches - noun)
She is both pretty and confident. (both … and – conjunction)

Both as a Pronoun

As a pronoun, or as an adjective ‘Both’ means the one as well as the other. So, it is basically used in place of the phrase ‘the two’.

As a pronoun, ‘both’ can work as a subject or as an object, and can have various positions in a sentence. Have a look at the examples given below.

Both as the subject

Both fell at the same time. (both – pronoun, working as a subject)

Both of them are playing squash. (both followed by ‘of’ – pronoun, working as a subject)

We do not use ‘both’ to talk about three of more people/things.

Students often commit word-order errors when using ‘both’ as a pronoun, when it is used after the subject of the sentence.

We always use ‘both’:

  • before the main verb, and after the modal verb if there is any.

    The brothers both played well. (pronoun both used after noun or pronoun subject, and before the main verb)

    They bought both a book. (incorrect)
    They both bought a book. (correct; ‘both’ used before the main verb bought)

    We can both play squash. (pronoun both used after a modal verb)

    We both can study together. (incorrect)
    We can both study together. (correct; ‘both’ used after the modal verb can and before the main verb ‘study’)
  • after an auxiliary verb or the first auxiliary verb, if there are more than one verbs in a sentence.

    They are both going to run away. (correct; are – auxiliary verb; going – main verb)
    They have both been apprehended. (correct; have – auxiliary verb; been – another auxiliary verb; apprehended – main verb)
The same rules/concepts apply to ‘all’ too.

Both as the object

Which candy do you like? I like both.

We like them both. (pronoun both used after main verb and pronoun object)

Both of

Pattern 1

We can use ‘both of’ in the following pattern:

Both + of + determiner + noun

Do not forget to add the determiner (the, my, this etc.), or else the sentence will be deemed incorrect.

Both of scientists claimed that they have discovered a new element. (incorrect – determiner missing)
Both of the scientists claimed that they have discovered a new element. (correct; the - determiner; scientists - noun)
Both scientists claimed that they have discovered a new element. (correct; scientists - noun)

Pattern 2

We can also use ‘both of’ in the following pattern:

Both + of + plural pronoun

Both of us are leaving the town.
Did the guards capture both of them?

We may or may not use this pattern when modifying a noun, but it must be used when modifying a plural pronoun.

Both as an Adjective

As an adjective/determiner, ‘both’ is followed by a noun, but not by a pronoun.

Both children are playing outside. (both – adjective; children - noun)

‘Both’ can also work as a predeterminer (i.e. it may come before another determiner such as ‘the’, ‘this’, ‘his’ etc)

I like both these paintings. (both used before the determiner ‘these’)
Both her brothers are criminals. (both used before the determiner ‘her’)

Both as a Conjunction

As a conjunction, ‘both’ is always used with ‘and’. They are examples of correlative conjunctions, just as “either…or” and “not only…but also”.

In the examples below, “both…and” is used as a conjunction relating two nouns, two adjectives, and two verbs, respectively.

Both Mragank and Aanya B will come to the party. (joining two nouns - Mragank, Aanya)
The flight was both late and turbulent. (joining two adjectives - late, turbulent)
He both killed and roasted the poor chicken. (joining two verbs - killed, roasted)

Uses of Both

We often use ‘both’ in following patterns:

Use 1

Pattern 1: Both + (the, my, your, etc.) + plural countable noun

Both players were hurt in the knee. (players - plural countable noun)

Both (of) my trainees will definitely qualify for the Olympics. (trainees - plural countable noun)

‘Both’ is always used with plural countable nouns and plural verbs.

Use 2

Pattern 2: Both + these, those + plural countable noun

Both these kids need extra care. (kids - plural countable noun)

We do not use ‘this’ or ‘that’ with both, as ‘both’ always refers to two entities.
When a determiner (the, my, your, these, those) is used after ‘both’, we can use either ‘both’ or ‘both of’.

Use 3

We do not use ’both’ in negative sentences, as it makes the sentence ambiguous. We rather use ’neither’ or ‘either’. 

Both of my children do not want to study today. (incorrect, as meaning is ambiguous – one child out of the two do not want to study, or two children do not want to study?)
Neither of my two children want to study today. (correct; it means two children do not want to study).

There is not a major difference in percentages for both students, when it comes to science. (incorrect)
There is not a major difference in percentages for either student, when it comes to science. (correct)

Extra Books and Tools

Though the matter on our website is in-depth and comprehensive enough for the needs of most of the aptitude exams, but it may also feel daunting for the same reasons. Moreover, some learners prefer books over websites. So, if you are a beginner level English learner, and prefer books, you may explore the following English Grammar books too.

1. Wren & Martin - This book has been around for long and is still considered one of the best. Though many concepts have not been dealt with in much depth here, but beginners may find it a breeze to read. Once you are done with it, the content on our website will work as a rich add-on. If you are getting this book, make sure you get the key to its exercises too.

Link for Indian readers: Wren and Martin

2. More advanced learners may refer to the following books. However, buy them only if you must. Most of your English Grammar learning needs will easily be met by our website.

Essential English Grammar by Raymond Murphy
Link for Indian readers: Essential English Grammar

Intermediate English Grammar by Raymond Murphy
Link for Indian readers: Intermediate English Grammar

Advanced English Grammar by Martin Hewings
Link for Indian readers: Advanced English Grammar

So much so for Englsh Grammar. But what about Comprehension skills and Vocabulary?

We strongly believe that Comprehension skills and Vocabulary are more a matter of practice. The more you read, the better you will become in them. In fact, this will help you in Grammar too. Afterall Grammar rules are just in the nature of temporary scaffholding - the goal is to read, write and speak a language without consciously remembering even a single Grammar rule.

So, we suggest you to read vividly. Ideally, carry some tool with you that you may refer to learn the meaning of any word that is new to you. There are many ways you may go about it.

* The old method: Carry a good dictionary with you. But who does?

* Download a Thesauraus app on your mobile or just google it. Better, but we still need to stop reading, open app, type and then search. Boring!

The methods mentioned above kill the joy of reading. Who wants to stop reading in the midst of an interesting plot and look for the meaning of a word? And if you are a lazy soul like me, oh man! No chance!

That's why I prefer to read on gadgets like Kindle. We may just tap on any word and see its meaning there and then. It's also not taxing on the eyes.

If you guys know about any more such books, gadgets and technologies that are awesome and may help English learners, do share 😇
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