Is there a rule that a noun would take only one determiner at most?

For example, according to “Determiner” at EnglishLanguageGuide.com, both both and the are determiners. Can I write an expression like the both cats? Or do I have to use it in either the cats or both cats forms only?

Is this usage correct?

I saw two cats this morning. The both cats were very young.

  • You may find this discussion interesting.
    – user16269
    Commented Sep 2, 2012 at 7:12

2 Answers 2


Yes, more than one determiner can precede a noun, but they do so in a particular order. All, both and half come before articles, so your example would have to read I saw two cats this morning. Both the cats were very young (but in this case the can be omitted).

  • Apparently, this applies only to 'Standard' English (whatever that would be) and more likely, BrE. @jwpat7 suggests an AmE usage in his answer below.
    – Kris
    Commented Sep 2, 2012 at 10:53
  • 3
    @Kris: 'The both of them' might also be found ocasionally in BrEng as an alternative to 'the two', but I was answering the question as put. It was about more than one determiner preceding a noun, and not about what might happen when no noun follows 'both'. In earlier times, incidentally, 'both' was actually placed between 'the' and the noun, as in, for example, 'To plate the both horns round about with gold.' Commented Sep 2, 2012 at 11:03

As noted in previous answer, “Both the...” is standard. However, in many cases of spoken (vs written) English, one finds “the both of them/you/us” being used where “both the” would be standard.

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage has half a dozen paragraphs under both, sense 5, with examples including “the both of you” and “the both of them”. It concludes:

The expression appears to be an Americanism ... There is no reason you should avoid it if it is your normal idiom.

Note, Merriam-Webster's advice does not countenance saying “The both cats were...”, but would allow certain Americans to say “I saw two cats. The both of them were white with spots of gray.”

  • 1
    Note that "both of them" would not be a replacement of just "both the", it would replace "both the cats" (Your example demonstrates that, but the first paragraph does not). While some people might say "both of them cats", it would be considered poor english. Commented Sep 2, 2012 at 13:27
  • 1
    Note that the both of them is permissible in American English, but not the both of the cats or the both the cats. So here you have a pronoun which cannot be replaced by its antecedent. Commented Sep 2, 2012 at 14:50

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