5

So I had to check my friend's homework, but I myself don't even know the answers. For instance:

  1. "Yes, they are. They are both tall and they have both got brown eyes.

  2. "Yes, they are. They are both tall and they both have got brown eyes.

I am leaning towards "they have both got" (#1), but I cannot rationalize why, or why the other option would be bad.

Which is correct, and why?

Edit: Her teacher wasn't exactly of much help when she said that it is just the way it is. The answers are shown below.

A copy of her homework is below:

illustration of the book

A copy of the answers (provided by her teacher): illustration of the answers

  • 2
    That is a bad test. – F.E. Mar 11 '15 at 23:25
  • 2
    Have got = have is a strictly colloquial idiom, and you're unlikely to hear either version you offer. The likeliest version is * ... they've both got ...* – StoneyB Mar 11 '15 at 23:30
  • 2
    @δοῦλος What! Have got = have is primarily a US idiom, although it has been making headway in the UK for a generation or two. What is distinctly British is use of got as the past participle of lexical get, where 'Standard' US English calls for gotten. – StoneyB Mar 11 '15 at 23:33
  • 2
    (cont.) In other words, the following seem to be fine: "They are both tall" and "They both are tall"; as are "They have both got brown eyes" and "They both have got brown eyes". – F.E. Mar 12 '15 at 7:02
  • 2
    @StoneyB The 2002 CGEL, page 112 [59], makes the comment that "have got" is Characteristically BrE; but I have marked in the margins that I disagree with them. For I am AmE and that usage "have got" was very common when I was growing up, and the teachers (prescriptively) kept trying to rid us of that usage. I guess they failed. Also, my community (in the USA) were not tea drinkers. I'm finding that I have a lot of disagreements with CGEL over their judgments of BrE vs AmE dialect usage. – F.E. Mar 12 '15 at 7:42
7
+50

There are six (6) pairs of choices in her homework: that is, six (6) questions. So that gives a total of twelve (12) choices. Of those twelve (12) choices, all except for two (2) are grammatical.

It so happens that four questions have no wrong answer, and only two questions have a right/wrong pair as answers. (Aside: I like that kind of homework!)


CAVEAT: Some of the grammar info that I'm presenting in this post might be intentionally--or unintentionally--over simplified. Hopefully there won't be any egregious errors. (I'm sure I'll get dinged if there are.)

Let's first do a little grammar review, and then later we'll look at her homework.

There are two main uses for the word "both":

  • One: a marker of coordination -- This is usually taught in a formal lesson. The word "both" is used to mark the first coordinate of an and-coordination of two coordinates. E.g. "He likes both apples and pears", "He likes to both run track and swim relays". This type of use is rather straightforward, and it is a basic topic taught in schools.

  • Two: a quantificational adjunct -- This might only be lightly taught in a formal lesson, or maybe perhaps not taught at all. The word "both" is functioning as an adjunct, which is a modifier that is optional for a given sentence. It could be omitted with no loss, or almost no loss, in meaning (usually). It behaves in a similar fashion as traditional grammar's "adverbials" (which are also adjuncts), e.g. "They would both/quickly run to school in the mornings".

    • It is usually possible for a speaker to place a quantificational adjunct right after the subject. (e.g. "We both can sing tonight".)

    • When a clause is headed by an auxiliary verb, then a speaker can usually place an adjunct right after that verb; and often there could be a preference to have the adjunct located after an auxiliary. (e.g. "They would both/quickly run to school in the mornings".)

    • When a clause is headed by a transitive lexical verb, then there will often be some resistance to having an adjunct located between the verb and its object. (e.g. * "They play both the guitar", which is ungrammatical.)

Auxiliary verb: An auxiliary verb can usually be identified by verifying that it can participate in subject-auxiliary (verb) inversion. For example:

  • "They are tall" has the subject-aux inversion of "Are they tall?"

  • "They can run fast" has the subject-aux inversion of "Can they run fast?"

For those above examples, the auxiliary verbs are "are" and "can". The auxiliary verbs switched spots with the subjects when they underwent inversion.

Sometimes it might be unclear as to whether the word "both" is functioning as a quantificational adjunct or as a marker of coordination. Consider this possible ambiguous example:

  • "We can both sing and dance."

The two different interpretations can be seen when it is compared against:

  • "She can both sing and dance." -- [marker of coordination]

  • "We can both sing." -- [quantificational adjunct]


Now let's evaluate the example choices by question.

Question #1:

  • 1.a They are both tall.
  • 1.b They both are tall.

The above two examples are grammatical because the word "both" is functioning as quantificational adjunct in both.

That is: in #1.a, the word "both" is after the auxiliary verb "are", and in #1.b, the word "both" is after the subject. And both locations are valid slots for the quantificational adjunct "both".

Question #2:

  • 2.a They have both got brown eyes.
  • 2.b They both have got brown eyes.

The above two examples are grammatical because the word "both" is functioning as quantificational adjunct in both.

That is: ditto as given for question #1 above, except that the auxiliary verb here is the verb "have".

Question #3:

  • 3.a They both like rock music.
  • 3.b They like both rock music. <-- [ungrammatical]

Example #3.a is grammatical because the word "both" is functioning as a quantificational adjunct. The reason is the same as given for example #1.b above: that is, the word "both" is after the subject.

Example #3.b is ungrammatical. The reason it is bad is because the word "both" is functioning as a quantificational adjunct, but it is located after a transitive lexical verb ("like") and before its object.

Question #4:

  • 4.a They play both the guitar. <-- [ungrammatical]
  • 4.b They both play the guitar.

Example #4.a is ungrammatical. The reason it is bad is because the word "both" is functioning as a quantificational adjunct, but it is located after a transitive lexical verb ("play") and before its object.

Example #4.b is grammatical because the word "both" is functioning as a quantificational adjunct. The reason is the same as given for example #1.b above: that is, the word "both" is after the subject.

Question #5:

  • 5.a They both are good at tennis.
  • 5.b They are both good at tennis.

The above two examples are grammatical because the word "both" is functioning as quantificational adjunct in both.

That is: ditto as given for question #1 above.

Question #6:

  • 6.a They are both lively and confident.
  • 6.b They both are lively and confident.

The above two examples are grammatical, but the first of the pair is ambiguous as to how it could be interpreted.

Example #6.a is grammatical because of one of the following reasons:

  • The word "both" could considered to be functioning as a quantificational adjunct that is located after the auxiliary verb "are". Which is the same reason as given for example #1.a above.

  • Or the word "both" could be considered to be a marker of coordination, where the two coordinates are "lively" and "confident".

Example #6.b is grammatical because the word "both" is functioning as a quantificational adjunct. The reason is the same as given for example #1.b above: that is, the word "both" is after the subject.


EXTRA INFO: Some related grammar excerpts


The 2002 CGEL, page 1305:

2.3 Both and either

The determinatives both and either function in the structure of NPs or of coordinations:

[38]

  • i.a. both players - - - - b. both Kim and Pat

  • ii.a. either player - - - - b. either Kim or Pat

In the NPs [i.a / ii.a ] they function as determiner, as described in Ch. 5, &&7.3, 7.7. In the coordinations [i.b / ii.b ] they function as marker of the first coordinate in correlative coordination: both is paired with and, while either is paired with or. (fn 25)


The 2002 CGEL, page 102:

Quantificational adjuncts

A comparable difference in position between auxiliaries and lexical verbs is found with certain determinatives, such as all, both, each (…), that are semantically associated with the subject:

[36] - - - - - LEXICAL VERB - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - AUXILIARY VERB

  • i.a. All the players took a card. - - - - - - - b. All the players had taken a card.

  • ii.a. The players all took a card. - - - - - - b. The players all had taken a card.

  • iii.a. * The players took all a card. (*) - - - b. The players had all taken a card.

In the [i ] versions all belongs syntactically and semantically in the subject: it functions within the NP all the players and it quantifies over players. Such items can be positioned outside the NP, and the [ii ] versions show all in pre-verbal position. If the verb is an auxiliary, it can follow the verb, as in [iii.b ]. But it cannot follow a lexical verb, as is evident from the ungrammaticality of [iii.a ].


The 2002 CGEL, page 413:

(c) Quantificational adjuncts

One use of fused-head partitives that merits separate mention here is that where they function as quantificational adjunct in clause structure:

[13]

  • i. Her parents both felt she had been exploited.

  • ii. They had none of them intended to cause so much ill will.

The quantificational adjuncts serve to quantify the subject. Example [i ] is thus equivalent to Both her parents felt she had been exploited and [ii ] to None of them had intended to cause so much ill will. Universal all, both, and each can occur as implicit partitives, while the set of determinatives found in explicit partitives is considerably larger: these three together with existential some, any, none, cardinal numerals, multal many and much, paucal few, a few, and several.

The implicit partitives can occur in preverbal position, as in [i ]; explicit partitives are somewhat questionable in this position, strongly preferring post-auxiliary position. Compare ?Her parents both of them felt she had been exploited and Her parents had both of them felt she had been exploited.


The 2002 CGEL, page 428:

[7]

  • i.a. We all/both enjoyed it. - - - - - - - - - - b. We had all/both enjoyed it.

  • ii.a. You each qualify for a prize. - - - - - - - b. You will each qualify for a prize.

  • iii.a. They all five of them complained. - - - b. They are all five of them complaining.

In this construction the underlined expressions (italicized bold expressions, F.E.) are quantificational adjuncts functioning in clause structure. This is evident from the fact that when the verb is an auxiliary they preferentially follow rather than precede it, as in the [b ] examples.


Some related examples from the 1998 SPE. An example is grammatical if it is unmarked (most of the examples below are grammatical).

Page 98, #2:

  • Tom's hands both were filthy.

Page 170, #10:

  • The children all must have fallen asleep.

  • The children must all have fallen asleep.

  • The children must have all fallen asleep.

Page 244, #5:

  • The employees all may have been drinking coffee.
  • The employees may all have been drinking coffee.
  • The employees may have all been drinking coffee.
  • % The employees may have been all drinking coffee. (acceptability varies dialectally)

Page 245, #6:

  • His hands were both filthy.

Page 521, #2:

  • The guests both drank beer.
  • * The guests drank both beer. (ungrammatical)

NOTE: The 2002 CGEL is the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum (et al.), The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language.

NOTE: The 1998 SPE is the 1998 textbook by James D. McCawley, The Syntactic Phenomena of English, 2nd edition, paperback.


OLD NOTES:

  • A related topic is quantificational adjuncts, which is discussed in the 2002 CGEL, pages 102, 413, 428.

  • I did a quick look at the teacher's answers. There are a number of grammar issues in play: such as, transitive verbs (e.g. "play") have a resistance to having some kinds of adjunct (e.g. "both") between the verb and its object. Also complicating the issue is that the word "both" can be a marker of coordination, e.g. "She plays both the guitar and piano".

  • 1
    I doubt anyone is going to be able to top this, but there's still a few days left on the bounty! Provided no betters answers will be posted, you can be assured you'll receive the points in a few days. For now though, have my gratitude. – Stephan Bijzitter Mar 15 '15 at 11:37
  • 2
    @JimReynolds 2002 CGEL has on page 112, in the section on the idiom "HAVE got": "In both varieties, however, the perfect origin of have got is reflected in the fact that the have component of it is an auxiliary, absolutely incompatible with do ( * We don't have got enough tea--ungrammatical)." -- They also provide the examples: "I haven't got enough tea" with "Have I got enough tea?", and "I haven't got to read it all" with "Have I got to read it all?". So for their speakers, the verb HAVE is an auxiliary verb. – F.E. Mar 15 '15 at 18:02
  • 1
    @F.E.: Phooey on "vetted grammar sources", there's more to learning and using the English language than grammar. I have added a cognitive science reference to my answer. – Ben Voigt Mar 15 '15 at 23:04
  • 1
    @F.E. I think, given past experience an all, it might probably be worth pointing out that quantificational adjunct and marker of co-ordination are both syntactic functions, not word categories, do you reckon? Yes, I know you've said "function as" but yanno, people can easily read that the same as "functioning as an adjective" and that kind of baloney. Oh +1, excellent post. Definitely worth the time :) – Araucaria Mar 17 '15 at 1:26
  • 1
    @Araucaria You make a good point! But I fear that if I directly attempt to do that, I might end up in a quagmire (something similar to auxiliary verb vs lexical verb, which I had attempted to only briefly describe but probably didn't do it successfully enough). Maybe if you have any suggestions … :) -- Aside: interestingly there's the example "The twins both both closed the windows and locked the doors", and hopefully the question of its acceptability won't come up in mixed company (and hopefully no one will ask about it). – F.E. Mar 17 '15 at 8:51
2

The question didn't carry the when I replied, so be aware that this answer explains the American English style.


As the comments say, both alternatives are worse than "they both have".

However, in context there is a clear advantage to one of them for reasons of parallel construction.

The assignment appears to have precircled "they are both (tall)", thus the complete sentence would be

They are  both tall and
 ||        ||
they have both got brown eyes.

However, the pre-chosen phrase is also bad style1, it should be

(They) Both are tall and both have brown eyes.     (Good, less good if "They" is included.)

Contrast this with correct use of both following the verb

My grandmother is both old and wise.
                    ^   ^        ^
                    +---+--------+

In this example it modifies the predicate or object, not the subject. And that will be the natural line of thought when hearing a sentence in which the modifier is placed after the verb.

Also correct:

They are both tall and brown-eyed.
           ^   ^           ^
           +---+-----------+

but this is usable whether "they" are two or many, because "both" isn't modifying "they".

The other choice is similar:

They both are tall and have brown eyes.
       ^   (-+-)         (----+----)
       |     |                |
       +-----+----------------+

"Both" still doesn't modify the subject. To make this clearer, consider the awkward but grammatically correct sentence (of questionable truth)

All fifty of the Miss USA competitors both are tall and have brown eyes.

or, less awkward

You must both sing and dance to be considered for this acting role.

If you wanted it to obviously modify the subject, then

Both of them are tall and have brown eyes.         (Good)
  ^  /\   ^
  +--  ---+

At best the preselected word order is ambiguous and confusing (proof follows).


Thanks to F.E. for bringing the correct terminology into the discussion. To recap the issue of ambiguity, there are three functions which "both" can potentially perform:

  1. quantification adjunct applied to subject
  2. marker of coordination applied to two predicates (usually with different verbs)
  3. marker of coordination applied to two direct objects or predicate adjectives

All examples in the question desire "both" to be interpreted as the first case, a quantification adjunct. But none of the offered options do so unambiguously.

If "both" is placed before the verb, it can function as either 1 or 2.

If "both" is placed after the verb, it can function as either 1 or 3.

In common usage, it shouldn't appear in either location. This provides maximum clarity.

They are tall and have brown eyes.
Can you sing and dance?
My grandmother is old and wise.

However, this doesn't provide emphasis. For that, including "both" can be useful.

Both... of them... are tall and have brown eyes.
Can you sing and also dance?
My grandmother is both old and wise.

In these examples, only the first leaves the meaning of the term "both" momentarily ambiguous, and its function becomes clear to the reader ("fixed") very early and actively. In the third example, "both" is fixed as soon as it appears, because it doesn't agree with the subject. For the second example, "both" would be unclear, even after the end of the sentence, so the emphasis on coordination has been provided in a different way.


1 Note that I am not saying the constructs offered by the exercise are outright incorrect from a grammatical perspective. But they slow down comprehension2, compared to sentences starting with the unambiguous clause "Both of them".

2 For a discussion of ambiguity and its effect on comprehension time and effort, one should consult the cognitive science literature, such as Gerry Altman "Ambiguity in sentence processing" (download with no paywall)

Language learners would do well to learn the practical aspects of clear communication in addition to the borderline cases permissible according to grammar yet unclear.

  • -1 Both is linked to they by the copula or, surprisingly enough, linking verb 'to be'. In addition, they have both got (or they've both got) is idiomatic. The homework isn't asking about your last construction, which is not idiomatic on spoken English. – user6951 Mar 12 '15 at 0:09
  • @δοῦλος: There's not a single sentence here where "both" unambiguously refers to "they". If you want clarity, say "both of them". – Ben Voigt Mar 12 '15 at 0:12
  • But that is not how people actually use English, aka, actually talk. – user6951 Mar 12 '15 at 0:14
  • Every one of my examples will see more actual use than the phrasing in the book, I promise. – Ben Voigt Mar 12 '15 at 0:16
  • 1
    Great. You've actually provided an example from written English that does not exemplify spoken English. – user6951 Mar 12 '15 at 0:34
1

This is, frankly, a question whose answer can only be found in the nuances of the grammatical constructs your teacher is teaching you to use.

In general though (and although you did tag with british-english, I'm going to go ahead and talk about American English), both constructions make sense to me, as a native speaker, and are for the most part, interchangeable. Here's an Ngram that compares the popularity of "they both have" and "they have both" - and it's actually an interesting trend.

FWIW, I'm also inclined to note that for the purposes of emphasis in speech, I might prefer to say "they both have" to emphasize that "they" refers to a specific pair of people, as opposed to "they have both..."

  • But note that "They have both" also occurs with the meaning "They possessed or acted on two things", and "They both have" also with the meaning of "They did two actions". It would be very difficult to pull out only the occurrences meaning "Two actors did or possessed something". – Ben Voigt Mar 15 '15 at 23:57

protected by user6951 Mar 14 '15 at 11:19

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.