I cannot think of any sentence where the word "both" is not dead-weight. Can you help me understand when it is and is not appropriate to include "both" when proceeding a list of two.

For example:

However, both Tom and Laura were upset about the price being charged for admission.

1 Answer 1


"Both" can act as emphasis when one of the two is unexpected. In this usage, the unexpected one is placed second. For example, consider the difference between:

Tom and his manager thought the customer complaint was invalid.


Both Tom and his manager thought the customer complaint was invalid.

The first one tells you two people felt that way; the second, on the other hand, tells you that Tom's manager backed him up.

Sometimes words that are syntactically superfluous add semantic meaning. In the previous paragraph, "on the other hand" isn't strictly required, but it signals that I'm about to give a contrasting view. To signal a corroborating view, I might have used the form "X, and further, Y". Strictly speaking you only need to know X and Y, but the additional words supply nuance.

If it's only important to report the facts, go ahead and drop the extra words. If you're trying to signal something more, use them.

  • Totally on board with "extra" words having use in terms of reading comprehension or reader response. I'm wondering if there are other uses for "both" (in a sentence) besides emphasis
    – COMisHARD
    Dec 29, 2016 at 19:02
  • 1
    If you are using it to introduce a list, it can be superfluous. If you're using it in a different sentence structure (He gave money to both sisters), it might be a way of cutting words (He gave money to the two sisters. He gave money to one sister and then the other). Dec 29, 2016 at 19:28

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