“The both of you” is a very common expression we use in English. Other similar phrases convey the same thing more concisely, but we might still hear others use “the both of you” often.
It is technically acceptable to say “the both of you” in English, though it sometimes feels wordy to add the definite article “the” in front of the pronoun “both.” It’s more concise to eliminate the article “the” and say “you both.”
Keep reading as we explore what “the both of you” means, how and when to use it in a sentence, and alternatives to the phrase.
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “The Both of You”?
Technically, it is okay to say “the both of you” in a sentence. In modern English, the definite article “the” isn’t necessary, but you can add it to a sentence without making it grammatically incorrect.
In case you forgot, we use “the” similar to an adjective to modify nouns and pronouns.
Using “The Both of You” in a Full Sentence
We can use “the both of you” in a sentence to speak directly to two individuals. Also, you should know that, technically, it is also correct to eliminate “the” from “the both of you.” To understand this better, let’s look at a couple of example sentences.
- I hope to see the both of you in class tomorrow.
- I hope to see both of you in class tomorrow.
When you read the two sentences above, you’ll notice that the latter example without “the” sounds smoother and much more concise. Grammatically, it is best to eliminate the article word and just use “both of you.”
However, many people aren’t particularly bothered by the use of “the both of you” because it is so common in modern conversational English.
For more on common phrases in modern conversational English, read “With That Being Said: Meaning and Use of this Common Phrase.”
Next, let’s look at the meaning behind our English phrase.
What Does “The Both of You” Mean?
As the definition says, you will already know who “one (noun) and the other (noun)” are. So, when we use the phrase, “the both of you,” we usually refer to two specific people someone has already named or identified.
To break down the meaning of “the both of you,” we’ll start by defining the word “both.” The most common definition for “both” is “one and the other” (source).
We can use it as a plural pronoun, which helps describe or highlight two specific people or objects in a sentence that we are already familiar with (source).
“Both” implies that we are directing our attention to these two specific nouns for a specific reason. Often, we use this phrase after previously presenting the context of the conversation or situation to the reader or listener.
This means, by the time you hear or read the phrase “the both of you,” you will already know who “both” subjects are in the situation. In the phrase “the both of you,” we use “both” to substitute for two subject’s names or titles.
How Do You Use “The Both of You”?
Below are a few example sentences of using “both” in our phrase, “the both of you,” to refer to two specific nouns.
Context: Imagine that a mother is talking to her two young daughters at night time, and she is concerned about their safety when walking around in the dark.
Example: She may say something like, “The both of you should be more careful walking around at nighttime.”
Context: Two students misbehave during class. They become disruptive to the other students, and the teacher becomes frustrated.
Example: The teacher might say to the two disruptive students, “I want to see the both of you after school for detention.”
Context: A grandmother celebrates her 80th birthday. Two of her grandchildren bring her flowers, and she wants to show gratitude towards them for their kind gesture.
Example: The grandmother might say to her two grandchildren, “It was very kind of the both of you to bring me flowers. Thank you.”
As you can see from the above examples, each person is talking to two subjects simultaneously.
When Can You Use “The Both of You”?
The most important thing to remember is that we use this phrase to directly refer to two specific nouns. More specifically, we use this phrase in sentences where someone has already set the context. We already know which two specific people we are talking about.
In What Context Can You Use “The Both of You”?
The contexts in which you typically find the phrase “the both of you” are during an intimate face-to-face conversation, over email, through direct message, text message, or over the telephone.
Remember, someone has set the stage by the time you hear the phrase, “the both of you.” So before you use this phrase, you should already know who the two people are that you’re referring to.
To make this more tangible, let’s look at an example of how to use the phrase appropriately and inappropriately in the same situation.
Example of Inappropriate Usage: The school principal walks into a classroom full of students and says, “The both of you need to come to my office immediately.”
Example of Appropriate Usage: The school principal walks into a classroom full of students, points to the two boys at the back of the classroom, and says, “The both of you need to come to my office immediately.”
Did you notice the difference between the two scenarios? There’s nothing different about the actual sentence itself. They both say, “The both of you need to come to my office immediately.” So, how is one scenario correctly using “the both of you” while the other is incorrect?
We can find the difference in the context leading up to the sentence. To use our phrase appropriately, you must first establish which two specific people you’re talking to.
In the inappropriate scenario, the principal walked into the classroom and simply announced that two of the pupils needed to go to his office immediately. The principal did not establish who he was talking to, leading all of the students to wonder to whom he was referring.
In the appropriate scenario, the principal walks in, establishes that he will be addressing the two boys at the back of the classroom by pointing at them, and then informs them that they both need to go to his office immediately.
When Not to Use “The Both of You”?
There are two main rules to remember. First, you should not use “the both of you” when talking about fewer or more than two nouns. “Both” means “one and the other.” Therefore, you should not use this phrase if you address a group or if you want to address a singular person or thing.
You should also not use “the both of you” when referring to broad groups of people or things. Again, “both” is specific in nature. Therefore, you should not use this phrase to discuss a broad group of people, places, or things.
What Can You Use Instead of “The Both of You”?
Today, we will give you three alternative phrases to use instead of always saying “the both of you.” The three alternative phrases we will look at are “the two of you,” “you two,” and “you both.”
The first most common phrase you can use is “the two of you.”
- I would like to see the two of you in my office immediately.
The second phrase you can use is, “you two.”
- I don’t want to see you two walking around outside at night.
The third phrase you can use is, “you both.”
- I want to thank you both for the beautiful flowers.
The third phrase you can use is, “you both.”
Notice that in all three examples, the speaker is talking to two people specifically; they’re simply using different expressions to direct their dialogue to both individuals.
Remember from the beginning of the lesson, “you both” is the most concise option in English. It’s the quickest and sharpest option we have to direct our attention to two individuals.
Which Is Correct: “Love You Both” or “Love Both of You”?
“You both” and “both of you” are often interchangeable. They mean the same thing, and they are both grammatically correct. The most concise option is “you both.”
So, you can say, “I love you both equally.” You can also say, “I love both of you equally.”
Remember earlier when we said that you could have “the” in your phrase, but, grammatically, you do not need it? Let’s look at some scenarios where this is true.
Which Is Correct: “Both of You” or “To Both of You”?
As with many things in English, using “both or you” or “to both of you” depends on the context of the sentence. Both are correct, and both are examples of phrases where we can eliminate “the.”
Let’s look at a couple of specific scenarios to learn how to do this.
First, let’s look at “both of you.”
- Both of you have detention after school.
This sentence is correct because “both” can act on its own as a plural pronoun to replace people’s names.
Next, let’s look at “to both of you.”
- I sent the email to both of you.
This sentence works because we use “both” as a plural pronoun to address the two people who received the email, and we use “to” as a functioning word to let them know that the email was sent in their direction to their inboxes.
Is “Congratulations to the Both of You” Correct?
It is more grammatically correct to eliminate “the” in “congratulations to the both of you.” You simply don’t need an article in the sentence. It’s fluff. It’s redundant.
Let’s see how this plays out in the context of offering congratulations to two people.
You can say:
- I want to offer congratulations to the both of you.
However, what you should say is:
- I want to offer congratulations to both of you.
In this sentence, you’re telling two people that you’re proud of their accomplishments. You want to send compliments, well wishes, and praise their way. You send those feelings from yourself “to” the two people.
Articles in English
Articles in English behave like adjectives or descriptive words, and there are two types of articles in English: definite and indefinite.
“The” is the only definite article in English. Like an adjective, we use “the” in a sentence to modify a specific noun or pronoun (source).
When you say, “Look at the painting over there,” you refer to a specific painting on a specific wall.
“A/an” modifies non-specific nouns or pronouns. Nouns are people, places, and things. Pronouns are specific people, places, or things referenced during the discourse.
When you say, “I want to look at a painting in a museum,” you make a general statement that you want to look at some art somewhere. It’s non-specific.
For a more in-depth exploration of the indefinite article “a/an,” read, “‘A One’ or ‘An One’: Understanding Correct Grammar.”
Wordiness is very common in English. Sometimes, it can help create emphasis, but it can also obscure your message. For example, saying something is a “true fact” is redundant because facts are already realized truths.
Or, saying, “I will love you forever and ever” is also redundant because “forever” already implies eternity.
Similarly, we don’t need “the” in “the both of you” to make sense of the phrase, so it’s best to leave it out. It emphasizes what we try to say, but it doesn’t add any meaning, and it’s not a necessary detail.
Which sentence sounds better?
- I saw both of you at the movie theater last night.
- I saw the both of you at the movie theater last night.
- I saw you both at the movie theater last night.
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
You’ll agree that the last sentence sounds best. In contrast, the second sentence sounds clunky. It’s okay that “the” is in there, but it doesn’t add meaning or have a real purpose.
We broke down the meaning of “both” and the meaning of “the” to learn that, grammatically, you don’t need the definite article “the” to make “both of you” work in a sentence. In most cases, “you both” is your best option.
We also learned, though, that “the both of you” gets a lot of use in conversational English, and that’s okay. Additionally, we learned that there are other common phrases we can use to replace “the both of you” in a sentence because it can sometimes feel redundant.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of how this phrase works, how and when you can use it, and the phrases you can use instead of it.