Both . . . and . . .

The correlative conjunctions both . . . and . . . are best served by parallelism, which is easily achieved but just as easily overlooked. The conjunctions should be carefully positioned and their conjoined elements should be well balanced. That is, what follows both and what follows and should have the same grammatical form:

He was determined both to beat the record and to win over the crowd.

Here, the conjunctions frame two infinitives, which brings symmetry to the sentence – unlike the following constructions, which lurch rather awkwardly:

He was both determined to beat the record and to win over the crowd.
He was determined both to beat the record and win over the crowd.

Again, balance in the following sentences enhances their efficiency and euphony:

The game is suitable for both children and adults.
The game is suitable both for children and for adults.

Without balance:

The game is suitable both for children and adults.
The game is both suitable for children and adults.

In the last two examples, both and and do not carry equal weight, and the sentences become unbalanced. Although the sense is not destroyed, the rhythm is upset and logic is undermined. Following both with a preposition will lead readers to expect another preposition after and, while following both with an adjective will lead readers to expect another adjective after and, e.g.

The game is both suitable for children and enjoyable for adults.

But this is not what is being said, and the expectation – even if only momentary – may disorient the reader.

Recently I came across an example in Gerald Durrell’s Encounters With Animals:

“Once [the male trapdoor spider] has lifted the trapdoor and entered the silken shaft, it is for him both a tunnel of love and death.”

Most readers will automatically accept Durrell’s intention that the spider’s silken shaft (no sniggering please) is (1) a tunnel of love, and (2) a tunnel of death, but the sentence as it is written suggests that the shaft is (1) a tunnel of love, and (2) death. Better to have written:

It is for him a tunnel of both love and death.

Or, less plainly but more dramatically:

It is for him both a tunnel of love and a tunnel of death.

6 Responses to Both . . . and . . .

  1. sandysays1 says:

    Great site. Since I write, I’m always looking for ways to improve my craft. I plan on visiting regularly.

  2. He was determined both to beat the record and win over the crowd.

    Isn’t it fair to say that the omission of “to” from “to win” is a legitimate grammatical construction — an ellipsis — where the missing word is inferred from the context?

  3. Stan says:

    Thanks Sandy – enjoy your visits!

    Hi Bock. Yes, the omission is certainly legitimate, for the reason you mention. Nonetheless, I think it slightly cramps the correlative conjunctions’ style by losing the parallelism on which they thrive.

    Another option, which I should have included for clarity, is shown by the following example:

    He was determined to both beat the record and win over the crowd.

    This is identical to the line you quoted except that both moves forward one place, thus preserving sentence balance while obviating repetition or omission of the ‘to’.

    Faulty parallelism won’t make nonsense of reasonably clear text, but it will interfere with a polished style. It’s usually easy to avoid or remove, either by ensuring balanced parts in parallel structures or by recasting the sentence to avoid parallel structures altogether.

  4. AZT says:

    Hi – I am not sure whether this site is still active and open to questions, but I was wondering if this use of both is correct.
    “As both a producer and a consumer of science, I contemplate the ethical aspects of research a lot.”
    Thank you

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