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Is it correct to say "Are the both of you atheists?" or "Are both of you atheists"?

I'm quite confused if both or only one of them are correct and when to use them...

Which of the sentences are correct?

Any grammatical errors in these sentences?

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  • This question may be of help. Basically, the both of you is wrong. – fev Jun 5 at 18:22
  • Make your question easy to read by repeating the question from the title in the body. Note that asking "are there any errors" is not a useful question, because it is not specific. – James K Jun 5 at 18:35
  • @fev This is not equivalent to the question you linked; both is not serving as a qualifier, and the both of X is a usable construct. – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- Jun 6 at 2:40
  • You could also ask "Are you both atheists?" – Kate Bunting Jun 6 at 13:57
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The second form "Are both of you atheists" is the simple and correct form.

Adding "the" sounds a little odd to my ears, perhaps it is a dialect form, certainly less standard. I'm sure that this form has some use, for example

This town ain't big enough for the both of us.

The OED says now it is chiefly regional or colloquial; Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage isn’t worried about “the both of us [you, etc.].”, and says “There is no reason you should avoid it if it is your normal idiom.” New Fowler's says "not uncommon in spoken English, but should not be used in formal prose"

So in simple standard English, I would not use "the".

It is discussed over at English users both of you vs the both of you

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  • The OED says now chiefly regional or colloquial; Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage isn’t worried about “the both of us [you, etc.].”, and says “There is no reason you should avoid it if it is your normal idiom.” New Fowler's says "not uncommon in spoken English, but should not be used in formal prose" – Michael Harvey Jun 5 at 19:00
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    Thankd Michael, I'm going to s̵t̵e̵a̵l̵ incorporate that into my answer. – James K Jun 5 at 19:15
  • I got it all off Grammarphobia anyway. – Michael Harvey Jun 5 at 20:39
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“Are the both of you” combines two people and shows that the person asking expects that the answer is the same for both. Example: I hear a couple talking in French. They are likely both French, or perhaps Belgian, or Canadian, but I expect they are from the same country. So I might ask “are the both of you French”.

“Are you both” shows the person asking expects the answer is yes for at least one. I saw that one person has a French passport. So I ask “are you both French”.

However, the difference is subtle. People will understand both questions equally well and answer correctly. Now say they are both from Canada. The first question they’d answer “no, we are Canadian” The second question they’d say explicitly “no, none of us is French. We are both Canadian”.

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