Not sure when to use both of you or you both? The good news is that these phrases are almost synonymous, and you can often use either without changing the meaning of the sentence. Both of you is more formal, while you both is less formal and more common. However, there are times when a native speaker would choose to use both of you, even in informal situations. Let us explain!
What does both mean?
The word both means two things or two people together. It is always treated as plural. It can occur after a subject or object pronoun with the structure pronoun + both. The difference is not visible with you, as you is a subject and object pronoun. Both can also appear before of + object pronoun, as in the form both of you. To see the difference, take a look at the table.
|Pronoun + both||Both of + object pronoun|
|You both||Both of you|
|We both / us both||Both of us|
|They both / them both||Both of them|
How to use both in a sentence
They both helped us.
We received help from them both. (This is not the most common form – see below!)
We received help from both of them.
When in a sentence with a subject pronoun, both appears directly after the pronoun and before the verb.
I asked you both to stop doing that!
We both want you to come.
The exception to this is with the verb to be, when it appears after the verb.
You are both being very naughty!
We are both extremely disappointed in you.
You both vs both of you
As we said earlier, you both and both of you are almost synonymous in meaning and generally, you can use either without any change in the sentence.
Both of you are in trouble.
You are both in trouble.
However, it is more common to use both of you when you’re talking to two people in a formal situation. And, you both is informal and is often used to add emphasis after you, especially if you want two people to do something.
Both of you gave wonderful performances.
I would like to thank both of you for your help today.
You both need to tidy your rooms, right now!
I just love you both so much!
In English, we prefer to use both of you after a preposition. You both is not incorrect in these sentences, it’s simply less common. Take a look at these examples:
We gave the bike to both of you.
He smiled at both of you.
We received help from both of you.
Is it the both of you or both of you?
You will hear native English speakers using the both of you and both of you, but the second form is far more common. The article, the, is redundant in the phrase and, technically, incorrect – in fact, if you use a grammar tool, it will often mark it as wrong. Some people use it to add emphasis to what they’re saying, though if you want to be concise (usually, you do!), don’t use the.
Congratulations to the both of you!
Congratulations to both of you!
The both of you look very happy.
Both of you look very happy.
You both or both of you?
Both are perfectly acceptable. In informal situations, choose you both, while in more formal situations, you might want to say both of you. If you have a sentence with a preposition, it’s more common to use both of you, though no one will bat an eyelid if you use you both. The only thing you might want to avoid saying is the both of you – the is redundant, so why waste words?
Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.