both the men came in -- both men came in



Example with context
UPDATE 15/12/2016 (YouTube link broken):

I let go of the door. The door opened and both the men came in.

Is the grammar correct in that sentence? I've always thought that the only correct way to use both is without articles, like this: the door opened and both men came in.

If the way they have it in the story is correct though, then why do you think they used that particular, hard-to-comprehend grammar instead of the simpler, less-convoluted grammar offered in my example?
What can you say about this to help clear things up a bit?

Michael Rybkin

Posted 2015-04-09T23:01:48.447

Reputation: 37 124

2It should be *both of the men came in* or both men came in. – Catija – 2015-04-09T23:10:16.673

If both the things is possible, why not men? :) – Maulik V – 2015-04-10T05:01:48.950

If you can remember the original YouTube video and write its title in your question and//or find a substitute link that would be great. – Mari-Lou A – 2016-12-14T23:51:24.340

@MaulikV Both the things does not sound like good English to my ears. – None – 2016-12-15T04:17:26.757

@C.M.Weimer 'both the things' is absolutely okay to my ears! Even news search support it.

– Maulik V – 2017-01-13T07:19:43.360



I let go of the door. The door opened and both the men came in.

That usage of "both" is grammatical in today's standard English. In your example, the word "both" is functioning as a predeterminer.

Your suggestion of "the door opened and both men came in" is fine too, where the word "both" is functioning as a determiner.

Here is an excerpt from the 2002 CGEL that's related to your question, on page 376:

Relation between determiner and predeterminer constructions

All and both are unique among the determinatives in that they function as either determiner or predeterminer:


  • i. [ All / Both students ] failed the philosophy exam. -- [determiner]
  • ii. [ All / Both the students ] failed the philosophy exam. -- [predeterminer]

With both such pairs are equivalent. Both students (in contrast to two students) is definite: it denotes the totality of an identifiable set. The expresses nothing more than definiteness, so adding it to the already definite both students has no effect on the meaning.

NOTE: The 2002 CGEL is the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum (et al.), The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language.


Posted 2015-04-09T23:01:48.447

Reputation: 5 118

2+1 Erm, what's a "pre-determiner" exactly, please? Just in case I don't have a CGEL ... :) [of either description!] – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2015-04-10T00:24:53.993

2@Araucaria A predeterminer is an external modifier function slotted before the determined NP. For instance: "the students" is a NP that is determined by the determiner "the"; "[both] [the students]" is a bigger NP, with "both" functioning as the predeterminer which happens to be outside of the inner NP "the students". – F.E. – 2015-04-10T00:32:06.537


Ah, yes. Am going to but haven't had the time to read the H&P. Think I was getting myself mixed up with another argument I once had with a commenter or two about whether only inversion was the same as not only inversion - which has nothing to do with only! Anyhow, not quite on the ball with that post and need to reground myself before I try and enlighten anyone else! EDIT: Oh yes, thanks for the links by the way, will be well perused :D

– Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2015-04-10T00:55:22.253

That's exactly my problem. I don't understand why you need one more determiner (the) if you already have one (both). Doesn't "both" completely determine the noun "men"? – Michael Rybkin – 2015-04-10T05:07:49.777

@CookieMonster A speaker can choose either version. Both are grammatical, and basically mean the same thing. There's also the option "the men both came in". There are a lot of ways for us to express the same thing in English. – F.E. – 2015-04-10T05:12:09.673

@CookieMonster As an example to show how we can say the same thing in various ways, consider all these which basically have the same meaning: "the twins", "both twins", "both the twins", "the twins both". There's also a lot of duplicate info in most of those versions, as "twins" means two, and "both" also means two, and so, it might seem that extra words are being used that aren't needed. – F.E. – 2015-04-10T05:29:38.733

@F.E. And you could have even more duplication than that! *The two twins both....." – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2015-04-10T08:36:25.693

@Araucaria Yes, that seems true: "the two twins both". :) – F.E. – 2015-04-10T18:03:00.073

@CookieMonster And to continue to show the many ways we can basically say the same thing, there's also the additional options of "both of the men" and "both of the twins". Also, when the context has already established that we're about to talk about the men/twins, then we can simply also say "both came in" with it understood that "both" mean the twins/men. – F.E. – 2015-04-10T18:06:27.157

1@Araucaria And perhaps also: "The two twins both both sing and dance". :D – F.E. – 2015-04-10T18:08:26.743

@F.E. Or, even, "Both the two twins both both sing and dance" :D ? – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2015-04-10T18:20:28.857

1@F.E. No, that was me popping back from the social programme to get my keys and being silly :) – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2015-04-10T18:32:43.770