Saying 'Both'

'Los Dos' and 'Ambos' Are Common Translations

couple hug on beach in Spain
Los dos se abrazaron. (Both hugged each other.). Photo by Eleazar; licensed via Creative Commons.

There are various ways of expressing the idea of "both" in Spanish.

Most of the time, "both" simply means "two" and functions as an adjective or pronoun. In such cases, you can translate "both" as either ambos (ambas in the feminine) or los dos (las dos in the feminine). The two terms are almost interchangeable; ambos is somewhat more formal. Here are some examples:

  • Los dos se abrazaron. Both hugged each other.
  • Las dos cartas escritas desde Calabria reflejan la misma bondad. Both letters written from Calabria reflect the same kindness.
  • A los dos nos duele la cabeza si tenemos hambre. Both of us have a headache if we're hungry.
  • Los dos líderes de Al Qaeda más buscados en Irak murieron durante una operación militar. Both of the most-wanted leaders of Al-Qaida in Iraq died during a military operation.
  • Ambos creyeron poder demostrar la existencia de Dios. Both believed they could demonstrate the existence of God.
  • Me gustaría mucho leer ambos libros. I would very much like to read both books.
  • Ambas dijeron que no volverán nunca más al Perú tras esta amarga experiencia. Both said they would never return to Peru after this bitter experience.
  • Ambas opciones son buenas, y a veces no prefiero ninguno. Both options are good, and sometimes I don't prefer either one.

Note that in each of the above examples, ambos or los dos also could have been translated as "two" or "the two."

However, there are many cases where "both" isn't the equivalent of "two," usually when it is used for emphasis. There's no one set way to express the concept; you need to look at the sentence to determine the context and develop a translation in that way. Here are some examples; note that the translations given aren't the only ones possible:

  • El aprendizaje es una asociacíón en el cual tanto el maestro como el estudiante juegan un papel dinámico. Learning is a partnership in which both the teacher and the student play a dynamic role. (Here, "both" adds emphasis, indicating that the teacher as well as the student play a role.)
  • Queremos comprar una casa grande y además barata. We want to buy a house that is both big and cheap. (The use of "both" suggests that the two qualities normally don't go together and thus adds emphasis. Here, además, which usually means "also," fulfills a similar function.)
  • Pablo y Raúl tienen sendos hematomas que están siendo tratados. Pablo and Raúl both have bruises that are being treated. ("Both" is used here to clarify that each of the victims, not just one of them, is bruised. Sendos is an always-plural adjective often translated as "respective" or "his or her own" and is used here to provide a similar meaning. Sendos or sendas can also refer to more than two.)
  • Hubo errores de uno y otro lado en el conflicto. There were errors on both sides of the conflict. ("Both" is used to emphasize the existence of a contrast, which uno y otro also does.)
  • No es posible perder peso y comer lo que te gusta al mismo tiempo. It isn't possible to both lose weight and eat everything you want. ("Both" here suggest that two actions are being done simultaneously. Al mismo tiempo means "at the same time.")
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    Erichsen, Gerald. "Saying 'Both'." ThoughtCo, Mar. 2, 2017, thoughtco.com/saying-both-spanish-3079430. Erichsen, Gerald. (2017, March 2). Saying 'Both'. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/saying-both-spanish-3079430 Erichsen, Gerald. "Saying 'Both'." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/saying-both-spanish-3079430 (accessed November 22, 2017).