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.

33 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

  5. Shaymaa says:

    1. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt had both talent and compassion.
    B) Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt both had talent and compassion.
    which one is the correct structure?

  6. Waiyan says:

    A : She is both an intelligent and an adorable child.
    B : She is both an intelligent and adorable child.
    Which one is the correct one?

  7. Julia says:

    But what is the purpose of the “both… and” construction? “Jim played both baseball and soccer in middle school” vs. “Jim played baseball and soccer in middle school.” Is one better than the other? Why use “both” at all? I don’t understand how it makes the link stronger. Isn’t it obvious he played both?

  8. Chris Weiss says:

    A very clear and helpful explanation – thank you!

  9. […] Thus, as I conceive of it & have tried to illustrate: the mystical perspective can say that, for but one instance, God is Being and Not-Being– God is the ultimate “Both/And“! […]

  10. Bernard R says:

    For three things?
    “It is both ________, ________, as well as ________.”
    Is that my only option?
    If so, I guess English strictly abides by the concept of the “third wheel”.

  11. Pedro Heberle says:

    I cannot find the words to say how much I thought this was beautifully written. And how I enjoyed reading it (I could not fit this in the previous sentence with the proper symmetry — actually, I have just found a way, just now, but now I grew too fond of this parenthesis). It made me learn a fair deal, of a subject I treasure, while testing my knowledge at the same time, and I was quite happy with myself when I got the subtleties of euphony that you were trying to convey, as I also was to learn that there is a logical, almost mathematical reason for why good syntax works — in this case, at any rate —, and that probably has to do with me being really bad at math. I am good with languages — or love them, which, frankly, is the same thing —, and I tend to think I’m good in English, but not being a native speaker, you know, some confirmation is always nice.

    I have two questions, one that brought me here and another that came about from the reading, and which I will ask first:

    – Does “it is for him a tunnel both of love and of death” work? I think it might, if one could emphasize the conjunction “and,” or a pause between “tunnel” and “both,” or else the noun “love,” which is a very fine thing to emphasize, yet I see no way of doing that through punctuation. It may at first glance not be very elegant — though there is a percussive quality to it —, and I am not exactly familiar with prosody in English, and yet it makes, I confess rather incidentally, two perfect hexassyllables (in Portuguese, we count verses by syllables, which I don’t believe you do). Moreover, it rhymes more incisively with “entered the silken shaft” — the preceding hexassyllable, if you will —, though I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing, or even intended.

    – Finally, the question that brought me here is whether “both this as that” can ever work. Better yet (and here I feel obliged to say that this is for my professional benefit and that I probably should be paying you for it), why is this excerpt below incorrect?

    “Public sworn translator, certified for the provision of official translations both from the English language into Portuguese as from the Portuguese language into English”

    If you could answer the latter, it would be of immense help. Thank you for the unexpected joy of reading this.

    • Stan Carey says:

      Thank you for the kind words, Pedro, and for subscribing to Sentence first. Rhythm (and other aspects of prosody) can greatly influence a sentence; even when the effect is minor, it can be significant in subtle ways, if only by appealing more to the writer for some instinctive reason or other. Knowing how to adjust it is therefore a useful skill.

      The option ‘a tunnel both of love and of death’ is certainly fine. In your second question, the line doesn’t work because ‘both X as Y’ is not idiomatic: ‘as’ should be ‘and’.

  12. reemasahay says:

    Both interest received and dividend are allowed to be recorded under operating or financing activity in the firm’s cash flow statement.

    OR

    Both interest received and dividend is allowed to be recorded under operating or financing activity in the firm’s cash flow statement.

    ‘Are’ or ‘IS’ which one is correct? The MS word as well as Grammarly keeps changing it to ‘is’ but I’m not convinced.

    Please suggest. This is a little urgent. Also, if you could offer an explanation. Thanks in advance.

  13. Anu L says:

    Hi Please explain the difference between the use of following corelative conjunctions in the sentences:

    1. Both….and
    2.Not only…..but also

  14. muzaale Noan says:

    Thanks for all the comments. mine. how to use both with possession of objects. Both Sarah and Moses have a pen.
    Both Sarah and Moses have a pen each. which one is correct?

  15. Great! I came to this site looking for some “technical” explanation that could support my theory that the following construction is lacking balance:

    ” ‘The Silent Patiet’ is both a debut novel for Alex Michaelides and Celadon Books. The publisher is a new division of MacMillan Publishing […]”

    When I came across such article (from Goodreads) I stumbled on the first sentence. I was expecting it to say the book was two things, a debut novel and something else. And not that it is (only one thing) a debut novel for two different people/organization (Alex and his publisher).

    I agree that using a “for” before “Celadon” would fix some of the imbalance, but still, it passes the wrong message because there are no two things the book are. The only two things in there are “Alex M.” and “Celadon Books”. Thus, for a clear flow “both” should come right before those two elements.

    I’d rewrite it: ” ‘The Silent Patient’ is a debut novel for both Alex Michaelides and for Celadon Books.”

    I mentioned my observation to a group of writers I belong to, and so far I’ve had only one answer. The person told me, “it’s not technically incorrect, but it certainly ‘sounds’ better the way you rephrased it”. That is not a strong argument for me!

    When certain elements are put in inappropriate places in a sentence, they can cause confusion, so “both”, in the example from Goodreads, is misplaced, resulting in a construction flaw. Therefore, lack of clarity.

    From reading your article I can deduce my observation is correct. What do you say, Stan?

    Thanks for the insight! :)

    Rose

    • Stan Carey says:

      Hi Rose: Thanks for your comment, and for subscribing to Sentence first. The line from Goodreads is a good example of imbalance in the use of both . . . and, and of how attention to parallelism can do wonders to improve the structure and elegance of a line. I would rewrite it much as you did, but without the repeated ‘for’:

      ‘The Silent Patient’ is a debut novel for both Alex Michaelides and Celadon Books.

      If I retained the second ‘for’, I would move ‘both’ to before the first ‘for’:

      ‘The Silent Patient’ is a debut novel both for Alex Michaelides and for Celadon Books.

      • Yessss! :) I did write that incorrectly, and I noticed it after I hit “send”! Amazing how we read and reread and still can’t see certain details.

        After posting on your site I wrote to my friend who said “it sounds better”… and explained to her what I had got (notice what I said about the “for”):

        ” […] the use of “for” before the second element (Celadon) would fix some of the imbalance in the phrase, IF the former “for” were immediately before the first element (Alex), as in my phrase #2 below. But still, there is more than that!

        “The misplacement of “both” indicates that the book is “two things” for two people instead of one same thing for two people. Thus, in order for the phrase to be grammatically correct (and to express clearly what it means) the conjunction “both” should be carefully positioned, coming right before its two conjoined elements, Alex and Celadon.

        1) ” ‘The Silent Patient’ is a debut novel for both Alex Michaelides and Celadon Books.”

        OR

        2) ” ‘The Silent Patient’ is a debut novel both for Alex Michaelides and for Celadon Books.” ”

        Stan, this whole discussion made me happy! For I found you (your site), which helped me analyze solid information and confirm what I suspected.

        Funny thing is: I started my post asking my friends (writers) on Facebook if they could give me a hand on that matter… I was asking for information, and I ended up providing it to them. As I was writing here and then on my own post, the whole argumentation/explanation got even better digested and clearer in my mind.

        Thank you so very much for this enriching discussions! :)

        R.

  16. cosmoptimist says:

    Thank you for this! I have an example for which I would really appreciate your analysis:

    “A time limit of three to five days (both for lodging appeals and making rulings) seems reasonable for decisions to be taken.”

    Following your explanation, I understand that “for both lodging appeals and making rulings” would be better, but the meaning is still that there are 3-5 days for one process (appeals) and 3-5 days for the other (rulings).

    Is that right?

    Thanks again!

    Ana

    • Stan Carey says:

      I’m not sure that ‘for both lodging appeals and making rulings’ would be better, because it seems a little more ambiguous: it could suggest that it’s 3–5 days for the two processes combined, though the word ‘both’ should work against that misreading. A less ambiguous (and fully parallel) version may be:

      A time limit of three to five days (both for lodging appeals and for making rulings) seems reasonable for decisions to be taken.

      That’s the original line but with ‘for’ repeated. To preclude the ambiguity entirely, you could expand it thus:

      A time limit of three to five days for lodging appeals and three to five days for making rulings seems reasonable for decisions to be taken.

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