65

What would be the correct word to use when referring to three or more items, in the same manner as the word both?

For example, using two words, with the word both:

"There are several recommendations I have to further improve the sites — both to improve their profit, and decrease their cost."

Using three words, with a blank space in place of the correct word:

"There are several recommendations I have to further improve the sites — _ to improve their profit, decrease their cost and improve their usability."

So, what would be the correct word to use in place of the __?

  • 1
    What about "threeoth"? A is good, both in X and in Y. B is good, threeoth in X, in Y, and in Z. – Pacerier Mar 29 '16 at 14:40
  • Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/337595/… – SAH Feb 26 '17 at 18:10
  • Oh man, "throth" (my spelling), that's hilarious. I really wish there were special cases where "both" works for three items. For example, "Both Kate as producer, Jim as director, and Ted as lead actor did a phenomenal job." That sentence just seems to want to start with an inclusive word like "both" there, and seems like a "cheat" that we actually use when speaking. Oh well. – bwperrin Sep 8 '17 at 16:25
26

At that point I'd probably pick out one of the list for special attention using "not only ... but":

There are several recommendations I have to further improve the sites, not only to improve their profit, but to decrease their cost and improve their usability.

I'd cut that down further, though:

I have several recommendations to improve the sites — not only to improve their profit, but to decrease their cost and improve their usability.

  • as well as, as an alternative to not only ... but, is an option for putting less "special attention" on the first pick. Furthermore you could leave out a conjunction, resulting in no special attention: "There are several recommendations I have to further improve the sites, aiming to improve their profit, decrease their cost and improve their usability." – Aaron Thoma Apr 6 '15 at 6:59
25

Both is the suppletive variant of *all two, which is not grammatical English.

Suppletion is the irregular grammatical phenomenon of substituting a different word or root.
Like using went instead of *goed, or ever instead of *anywhen. It's not too common in English, but it occurs.

So the equivalent of both, for N> 2, is All N: all three, all four, all seventy-seven of them.

  • 2
    Interesting, thanks! Unfortunately that doesn't seem to me to be usable either, as "There are several recommendations I have to further improve the sites — all three to improve their profit, decrease their cost and improve their usability." sounds like the "three" counts the recommendations. – Aaron Thoma Apr 6 '15 at 5:49
  • 1
    That sentence is attempting to call the correlative conjunction both...and to ternary duty, but it doesn't work that way. Both alone is 'all two', but both...and is a unit and depends on binary structure, especially with infinitives. Different adaptation, different rules; if words were Galapagos finches, the both in both...and would have a different size bill from the lone quantifier both. – John Lawler Apr 6 '15 at 14:06
  • @JohnLawler: I'm curious about the stance linguists take with respect to extra-grammaticality and clear expression. For example, "Why don't you go and ask your supporters, all two of them?" [or even all one of them] is a perfectly valid use of extra-grammatical English to convey a precise meaning, although one that may stubbornly exist only outside the finite wavelength of grammatical expression. – Robusto Aug 21 '16 at 23:30
  • Of course it's possible. And we understand it because of the pattern and because of its variance from it. Like a harmonic for a musical note, or a sideband for a radio signal. Grammatical patterns are just the baseline that everything varies from; the variations are a big part of the language. They're what sociolinguistics and historical linguistics are all about. – John Lawler Aug 22 '16 at 2:23
10

I would leave out the word altogether, the second example you give makes perfect sense as it stands:

There are several recommendations I have to further improve the sites; to improve their profit, decrease their cost and improve their usability.

Or, if I'm going to be really picky, and remove the doubling up of the phrase "improve":

There are several recommendations I have to further improve the sites' profit, decrease their costs and improve their usability.
  • 1
    I disagree a bit with your first proposition where you just left the blank blank ("There are several recommendations I have to further improve the sites; to improve their profit, decrease their cost and improve their usability."): I find that could be misunderstood as the 3 phrases ("to improve their profit" etc.) being the recommendations (while actually the 3 phrases are the supposed advantageous effects of an undetermined number of recommendations). – Aaron Thoma Apr 6 '15 at 5:44
3

You don't need a word there at all.

There are several recommendations I have to further improve the sites — to improve their profitability, decrease their cost and improve their usability.

A follow-up suggestion, which you didn't ask for, is to remove the triple repetition of the word "improve".

I propose several recommendations for the sites to raise their profitability, cut their cost, and improve their usability.

Furthermore, a cost decrease generally implies a profit increase, so that may be redundant.

I propose several recommendations for the sites to improve both their profitability and their usability.

3

You could try a combination of "both" and "as well as".

"There are several recommendations I have to further improve the sites — both to improve their profit and decrease their cost, as well as improve their usability."

Although, this might put an emphasis on the last point.

3

There are two usual alternatives to refer to the three items:

  1. "not only...., but...and..."
  2. "both...and...as well as..."

The first alternative - "not only..., but...and..." - has a limitation: it is basically intended to refer to two items, but is adapted to fit in three items by adding "and...". Moreover, "not only..." puts less emphasis on the first item.

The second alternative - "both...and...as well as..." - puts an emphasis on the last item.

Therefore, the best way to refer to three items is to use "...: firstly...; secondly...; lastly...". In the instant case, the sentence could be written as follows:

"There are several recommendations I have to further improve the sites: firstly, to improve their profit; secondly, to decrease their cost; lastly, to improve their usability."
2

Logically, you don't have "several" recommendations, but "three".

There are three recommendations I have to further improve the sites - to improve their profit, decrease their cost and improve their usability.

Cheers

  • 2
    No, improving profit is probably not a recommendation, but a supposed advantage of their unspecified (and not numbered) recommendations. Otherwise, that would be akin to proposing as a business idea: "Let's earn more money!"… ;) – Aaron Thoma Apr 6 '15 at 5:56
0

Consider triad

A grouping of three.

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/triad

0

I ran into a somewhat similar situation recently where I was tempted to use "both" in reference to three items, as in:

I did see a notable increase in my approach frequency when placed into a rare situation in my city where there was both high traffic overall, a high fraction of the target demographic, and conditions favourable to approaching.

For this case, I found that "together" did the trick nicely:

I did see a notable increase in my approach frequency when placed into a rare situation in my city where there was together high traffic overall, a high fraction of the target demographic, and conditions favourable to approaching.

This doesn't work quite as nicely in your particular example, but I thought I'd mention it since it works well in some cases.

It does work for your example also, just not quite as nicely:

There are several recommendations I have to further improve the sites — together to improve their profit, decrease their cost and improve their usability.

However, for your example, some of the other suggestions, such as simply removing the conjunction altogether, are probably just as well. "Together" was more crucial to my example because the simultaneity of the factors was more significant to the meaning of the sentence.

  • Together may possibly be used in this way in some dialect of English with which I am unfamiliar, but in anything that might be called ‘standard’ English, it is not. Your examples are all completely ungrammatical to me. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 16 at 19:10
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Hm. I'll admit it's not very common. Dictionary.com does, however, give as definition #4: "taken or considered collectively or conjointly". In any case, I doubt it would impair comprehension in the way "both" could. – Kevin Feb 20 at 5:25

protected by tchrist Aug 13 '14 at 14:39

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