When we refer to two people, which is right — "both of you" or "the both of you"?

Are both the same or is there any difference between them?

  • 1
    Replace both of you with a dummy noun and decide if the definite article is required in the given sentence. Both of you as a noun phrase does not make a difference and follows the same rule as any other noun in that place.
    – Kris
    Mar 26, 2014 at 6:09
  • Please also visit English Language Learners -- Good Luck.
    – Kris
    Mar 26, 2014 at 6:09
  • 1
    @Kris Not wishing to belabour the point, but I don't think it is quite as simple as that. How would you distinguish between saying 'I gave one to both of you', meaning one to each of you; and 'I gave it to both of you', meaning for the two of you to share? If this hasn't been previously discussed I think it is worthy of further exploration. I don't incidentally think that 'the both of you' is considered terribly elegant. One instinctively knows such a thing in Britain by the type of people who use it. It is not something I would expect from the lips of an English professor.
    – WS2
    Mar 26, 2014 at 6:52
  • @WS2 Quite precisely the reason I provided a simpler solution to the OP; why confuse a non-native speaker for no purpose?
    – Kris
    Mar 26, 2014 at 6:55
  • @Kris Ok. I will raise it as a separate OP.
    – WS2
    Mar 26, 2014 at 6:56

3 Answers 3


One would normally just say "both of you" for both subject and object. Rarely, and much less formally, one might say "the both of you" for emphasis, but this should be avoided in Standard English.

  • Thanks @James. I wanted to know because in the film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Professor Snape says "THE BOTH OF YOU" referring to Harry and Ron :) Mar 26, 2014 at 5:00
  • 1
    I've updated my answer to include that the "the" form is for emphasis. It normally seems to indicate exasperation or anger. One would never say something like "I am friends with the both of you." Mar 26, 2014 at 5:06
  • 1
    You should wait 24 hours or so before accepting an answer - there is an excellent chance that someone in a different timezone will have come up with something better. Mar 26, 2014 at 5:13

The word 'both' is not a noun, so it cannot be preceded by 'the'. Obviously, there is no noun in the expression 'the both of you'.

  • 4
    As far as answers go, this is one of the silliest — not to mention one of the least correct.
    – tchrist
    Nov 16, 2014 at 20:15
  • 1
    tchrist, 'the' is an article that precedes a noun or an adjective which must be succeeded by a noun. E.g The ball, the beautiful girl. Proof me wrong, I want to learn too.
    – user97968
    Nov 16, 2014 at 20:21
  • 1
    +1: Actually, you are very much correct: the both of us/them/you appears to be an American grammatical innovation/abomination which is only very slowly being accepted by the U.K. See Ngram. But you should edit your answer to make clear you mean that there is no noun in the phrase "the both of you". Nov 16, 2014 at 20:25
  • Well, we tend to speak UK English in my part of the world. Thank you... Understand you perfectly.
    – user97968
    Nov 16, 2014 at 20:28
  • Looking at 19th century Google books, "the both of you" appears to originally have been Irish. Nov 16, 2014 at 20:39

To an extent it highlights the difference between English and Americanism and the influence of Americanism to the English language. In English the expression "both of you" is equivalent to "the two of you". As such, in English, "the both" would actually be equivalent to "the the two" which is obviously incorrect. Americans have a tendency to use "the both of you" when they actually mean "both of you". "The both" is clearly not English, but with the advent of Americanism it may soon become part of the English language.

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