General Writing and Grammar Help/usage of the word "both"

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Question
Dear Ted,
Can you use the word "both" in the "negative", or only in the "positive"? I know that you can use the word "neither" in the negative, thus example number one below is grammatically correct. My question is are examples number two and three below grammatically correct?
1. Neither of us can swim.
2. Both of us can't swim.
3. Both of us are unable to swim.

Answer
Dear Glen:

Can you use the word "both" in the "negative", or only in the "positive"? I know that you can use the word "neither" in the negative, thus example number one below is grammatically correct. My question is are examples number two and three below grammatically correct?
1. Neither of us can swim.
2. Both of us can't swim.
3. Both of us are unable to swim.

*** A very short answer is "do not use 2 or 3."  "Neither" is the preferred word.

If you search the internet for the phrase "both of us can't swim," you will get some hits, but they are from unreliable websites.  Most of them are from blogs in which people POUR OUT their innermost feelings.

This passage is from a reliable grammar site:

Here are some rules to remember when using both, neither or either.

Both = this AND that
Either = this OR that
Neither = NOT this and NOT that.

Both is used with 'and' e.g.
"Emma and Megan both went to the party."
We don't usually use this with a negative sentence, but use neither instead.
e.g.
"Both of us don't swim regularly." WRONG.
"Neither of us swim regularly." MUCH BETTER!

Either is used with 'or' e.g.
"Do you want either chocolate or crisps?"

We often use neither with 'nor', although this is quite formal. E.g.
"Neither Caroline nor Marguerite worked for EC during the world cup."
Be careful not to use neither with another negative e.g.
"I donít want neither chocolate nor crisps." WRONG.

*** HERE'S MY VIEW:  Why even think of writing "both of us can't swim," when you simply mean "WE CAN'T SWIM."

Make it short and to the point, Glen

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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