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Is the following correct?

Both of these essentially act as a WebKit wrapper.

Or should it be the following?

Both of these essentially acts as a WebKit wrapper.

Context.

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Related: How does “each” change “are” to “is”? –  MrHen May 27 '11 at 15:44

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The word both is a determinative (in the terminology of CGEL). Determinatives are not per se singular or plural (except these and those), but they select singular or plural nouns. When both appears without the head noun, as it does here, there is a fusion of functions and it becomes both the determiner and the head of the plural NP. The verb then agrees with the plural NP.

syntax tree showing partitive construction with *both* (ignore the clumsy grey line above Head)

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It acts only like plural because, unlike each1 and none2, "both" refers to all of the elements and not to one of them.

Read these examples from the OALD:

  • Both of us were tired. - and not - *Both of us was tired.
  • Both of them were French - and not - *Both of them was French.

(1) - Each is usually singular: "each of us knows about you".
(2) - None can be both singular or plural: "none of us is/are going home." (the singular form is considered formal in BrE).

Note: for more accurate explanations, visit the links, otherwise if I add too much info, this answer gets off topic.

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Both of these essentially act as WebKit wrappers.

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Both is definitely plural.

Both me and my brother are doing our best at school

Here's an explanation on using both. Although this explanation is irrelevant to the OP's question, none of the examples there uses both as singular.

And here it is stated explicitly.

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...and neither you nor your brother have gotten to the part about nominative case? :P –  JeffSahol May 27 '11 at 13:20
    
@JeffSahol Since my bro never really existed, I can assure you, he knows everything there is to know about anything there is to study :P Relating to your inquiry I do believe I used nominative case in my example. Always had trouble with using I in this context. –  Philoto May 27 '11 at 13:38

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