Is there a difference between "ambos" and "los dos"?

¿Hay alguna diferencia entre "ambos" y "los dos"?


Me gustan los dos.

Me gustan ambos.

  • 2
    Don't forget "entrambos" which, though it appears to mean "entre ambos", actually just means "ambos". :-) Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 22:49
  • I would understand entreambos to mean between both?
    – dockeryZ
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 0:36

2 Answers 2


They are almost the same.

Los dos means the two. For example:

I like the two girls in the class
(Me gustan las dos chicas en la clase).

Ambos on the other hand means both. For example:

There are only two girls in the class and I like both
(Hay sólo dos chicas en la clase y me gustan ambas)

I would think ambos is more inclusive than los dos. While los dos could in certain cases refer to two particular items among many, ambos would refer to two items where only those two are available to choose from.

Also, when the word cualquier (any one) is being used in this context, a native speaker would prefer los dos instead of ambos. Uso cualquiera de las dos (Use any of the two). Cualquier los ambos, regardless of whether it's grammatically correct, sounds weird to native ears and never used.

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:

Learning is a partnership in which the both the teacher and the student play a dynamic role.
El aprendizaje es una asociacíon en el cual tanto el maestro como el estudiante juegan un papel dinámico

(Here, "both" adds emphasis, indicating that the teacher as well as the student play a role.)

We want to buy a house that is both big and cheap.
Queremos comprar una casa grande y además barata

(The use of "both" suggests that the two qualities don't go together and thus adds emphasis. Here, además, which usually means "also," fulfills a similar function.)

Pablo and Raúl both have bruises that are being treated.
Pablo y Raúl tienen sendos hematomas que están siendo tratados.

("Both" is used here to clarify that 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.)

There were errors on both sides of the conflict.
Hubo errores de uno y otro lado en el conflicto.

("Both" is used to emphasize the existence of a contrast, which uno y otro also does.)

Hope this helps. I would love to have some native speaker correct me if I am wrong.

  • 2
    I don't see a reason why you can say Uso cualquiera de ambas, although I admit it sounds a bit weird.
    – rodrigo
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 20:18
  • Well yes that's the sense I meant it in...I was explaining what is preferable to use in colloquial speech. cualquiera de ambas sounds borderline incorrect ("weird" as you said); never heard any native speaker use this combination.
    – TheLearner
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 20:20
  • 1
    Nice answer Amit.
    – Jose Luis
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 8:03
  • ambos should only be used when the actions include both. "Uso ambas" is correct. "Uso cualquiera de ambas" is not. lema.rae.es/dpd/?key=ambos Please improve your answer, because is very good, but is wrong in that.
    – Flamma
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 18:14
  • Flamma The answer doesn't say anywhere that "Uso cualquiera de amebas" is correct grammar. I have clearly stated that regardless of what grammar says, it shouldn't be used as it doesn't sound right. I just took a neutral stand because @Rodrigo commented that it could be grammatically correct. Thanks for your input.
    – TheLearner
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 20:02

ambas and las dos are almost the same. As far as i know, it's use depends of the situation. you have to be quite familiar with the spanish language to know how to use it properly. It's kind of similar to the use of pronouns in french. Ambos is more formal.

based in my personal opinion. I'm from Latin America.

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