3

I am familiar with the expression "you two" used in sentences that address two people at once, as in:

You two weren't present in the meeting.

But is it okay to use this kind of expression in the third person? As in:

They two weren't present in the meeting.

Or should it be:

The two of them weren't present in the meeting.

Or should I just mention the names of the two persons I am talking about?

I have heard some people using the terms "these two" or "those two", but isn't it a bit disrespectful/informal to use the pronouns "these" and "those" to indicate humans? So maybe I should use "these two"/"those two" only in case of close friends?

7
  • 1
    Hi Prokriti Projukti Tusti! This particular question is trivial for native speakers and such questions are usually off-topic on this site; please consider the English Language Learners (ELL) StackExchange instead. In addition, the EL&U StackExchange has a 'research requirement': you are supposed to have attempted to answer the question yourself using commonly available resources and are supposed to summarize this research, explaining why you still don't think you know the answer. The ELL SE also has a research requirement, but it is less strict. Jan 8, 2022 at 1:03
  • 2
    You could also say "Those two".
    – GEdgar
    Jan 8, 2022 at 1:32
  • 1
    It isn't at all disrespectful to say 'those two', any more than it is to ask "Who is it?" when an unknown person knocks at the door. Jan 8, 2022 at 9:32
  • 4
    I don't understand why this question was closed as "trivial". I don't know why virtually no-one today would accept the collocation they two (the way we accept you two / we two / [us two?] as "natural" noun phrases). In particular, it seems odd that Them two live together sounds "slangy", whereas We two are just good friends sounds sounds quite "upmarket" to me. Jan 8, 2022 at 12:19
  • 1
    The more idiomatic way to say this is: The two of them. It works for other pronouns, as well: The three of us/you. Jan 9, 2022 at 16:53

2 Answers 2

3

Though I can find examples of "they two", it just doesn't sound idiomatic to me as a native speaker.

Maybe you and I both can agree the better word to use here is both? See?

It's pretty flexible too. I'd use "both" with any number of words, even in objects, plus in longer phrases:

  • We both
  • Us both
  • You both
  • They both
  • Them both
  • You and I both
  • You and me both
  • X and Y both
  • Both you and I (and so on)

A COCA collocation search would seem to support this, though I can't tease out the instances where both goes with the verb: "(did) both X and Y".


As for why, I'm not sure but it's relevant to note that as recently as Middle English there were single words for "we two" and "you two": wit and yit, plus unk and ink (including their derivatives, like inkself which refuses to translate neatly into modern English), but none for they/them or the words they replaced (heo/hem). Though it does appear as two words: "they two".

In spite of this, I don't find "we two" very idiomatic either. (One more and you get something like "We Three Kings" which only works because it's archaic.)

0

One major problem is that "they two" sounds identical to "they too", which would be easily taken to mean "they also".

1
  • 1
    Though the OP uses "two", this is just an example number. The question is also valid for any number larger than 1.
    – Rosie F
    Jan 9, 2022 at 14:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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