Both vs. Each

'Each' and 'both' are easily confused by English learners. They are similar to each other. Follow the article to learn about their similarities and differences.

"Both" vs. "Each" in the English Grammar

What Are Their Main Differences?

'Each' refers to every person or thing in a group of two or more objects, while 'both' refers to two options out of the two. Although these words are misused a lot, they serve completely distinct purposes. 'Each' refers to individuals separately but 'both' refers to two people or things together at the same time.


What They Refer to

  • 'Each':

To make it more clear imagine we have a group of 10 people or things. If we want to refer to one individual in this group we can use the term 'each'. But it is not always that we have a group of ten. A group can contain two or more people or things, The only important thing is to know that we are referring to only one of them.

Each boy has his own characteristics which make him unique.

  • 'Both':

If the group is contained of only two people or things, you use the term 'both' to refer to two of them. We mean by using the word 'both' you refer to two people or things at the same time.

Both boys are a terrible mistake to make.

Nouns That Are Used with 'Each' and 'Both'

  • 'Each':

is used with a singular noun because you know that it refers to one individual.

Each car is expensive.

  • 'Both':

is used with a plural noun unless you link one singular noun after it with another singular noun. For example:

Both Sara and Alex were afraid of the lion in the zoo.

Both restaurants serve delicious food.

Verbs That Are Used with 'Each' and 'Both'

  • 'Each':

is used with a singular verb to refer to one person or thing out of a group.

Each teacher has their own method.

  • 'Both':

is used with a plural verb to refer to two people or things.

Both books are interesting.


Grammatical Functions

  • 'Each' and 'both':
  1. as a pronoun
  2. as a determiner

"Which course is better to take?" "Each has its own benefits." → pronoun

"Which course should I take?" "Both would be perfect for you." → pronoun

Each class must contain only five students. → determiner

Both babies started to talk when they were two. → determiner

Affirmative or Negative verbs?

'Each' and 'both' are followed by an affirmative verb. And since they are not negative markers they imply affirmative meanings.

Each is awful.

Both serve different purposes.

'Each' in Negative Sentences

To refer to one individual in a negative sentence the best way is to use 'not every' instead of not each. Because 'not each' is technically wrong, however, some use 'not each' in English, 'not every' is more preferred.

Not every family has a dog. (Not "Not each family has a dog.)

Not every cat learns how to spin. (Not "Not each cat learns how to spin.)

'Each of' and 'Both of'

'Each of' and 'both of' are used before (determiners + noun) or (plural pronouns). Remember, we can use a (plural noun) or a (determiner + noun) directly after 'both'.

Each of them is smart and adorable.

I miss my grandparents. Both of them were kind.

Both the cats are spoiled.


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