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Consider the following sentences:

My parents are both teachers.

Sarah and Jane have both applied for the job.

I looked up "both" in some dictionaries, and none of them defines it as an adverb. Are the above sentences grammatically correct?

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  • Yes, but you can also put both at the beginning of the sentence. Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 16:11
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    "Both" belongs to the word class (part of speech) determinative.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 16:41
  • @BillJ would you explain more? Because, I thought determinatives have to come before a noun. For example: "Both cars are good." But here "both" isn't before a noun. Another question is that, which category of determinatives does "both" belong to? I mean, Articles, Demonstrative determiners, Interrogative determiners, Possessive determiners, Quantifiers, Numerals, Noun phrases?
    – shapoor
    Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 17:35
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    It is separable and not part of the subject NP, but an adjunct in clause structure.This is evident from the fact that when the verb is an auxiliary "both" preferentially follows rather then precedes it. Compare Sarah and Jane have both applied for the job ~ Sarah and Jane both have applied for the job. "Both" belongs to the category 'universal determinative'.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 9:58
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    You can call it a quantificational determinative. An adjunct is generally a modifier in clause structure where it modifies the verb or verb phrase. Sometimes, though, it is a supplement (a parenthetical), not a modifier. Some people call adjuncts adverbials. Determinative is a word category, not a function, so yes a determinative can function as an adjunct, as it does in your examples. – BillJ 3 mins ago
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 15:30

2 Answers 2

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Yes, both of those sentences are correct. I wouldn't overthink the usage of "both", just use it when you want to talk about two of something. "Both of my cats are black." "My cats are both black."

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My parents are both teachers.

Sarah and Jane have both applied for the job.

I looked up "both" in some dictionaries, and none of them defines it as an adverb.

  1. In the given sentences, the word 'both' is modifying the nouns 'parents', 'Sarah' and 'Jane', so is not an adverb, but a determiner. Alternative phrasings with 'both' performing the same function:

    • Both my parents are teachers
    • Both Sarah and Jane have applied for the job.
  2. In contrast, in this sentence, the word 'both' is an adverb:

    • Sarah and Jane have both applied for the job and gotten it.

I thought determinatives have to come before a noun.

Not necessarily; however, these phrasings are probably ungrammatical:

  • My parents both are teachers
  • Sarah and Jane both have applied for the job.

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