In this post about English grammar we’ll be looking at how to use the word “all” correctly. It’s a little word that causes much confusion for students especially when students are trying to decide when to use “every[one/thing]” and when to use “all”. Let’s take a look…

1) With three or More Items

If we have three or more items we use “all”. For example, in the video above you can see the example sentence “I have all the apples.” This is so we can express that we have “every” apple that we’re supposed to have. If want to emphasize the individual units we can use every + singular noun.

For example; “I’ve checked every bill from this month and we still need to pay the electric”

Here we are emphasizing that each individual bill has been checked rather than referring to them as a whole. You could also say:

“I’ve checked all the bills from this month and we still need to pay the electric”

The difference is very subtle.

2) All + subject or the Verb

We can use all + [of] + the + noun phrase or

all + of + pronoun

All [of] the people were singing” I’ve put [of] in brackets because we often don’t say it.

“Have you read that book I lent you yet?” “No, I haven’t read all of it yet”

When the structure is all + pronoun we do need the “of”.

“Maria has invited all of you to the party.”

3) All + adjective/ adverb etc for emphasis

We also use all before an adjective or adverb to emphasize what we are saying

“You’re all wet!”

“His problems we all because he didn’t listen to good advice”

“Tell me all about your plans”

4) All + Uncountable Noun or Plural Nouns

We use all with either uncountable nouns or with plural nouns (remember we use every with singular countable nouns)

Related post “English articles”:

“All the water was contaminated by the oil spill” (Water = uncountable noun)

“All my friends love skiing” (Friends = plural noun)

However, all can be used for some singular countable nouns that can be divided into parts. For example:

  • Week/month/year: “all that year she was studying” “it was raining all that week”
  • Family: “all my family”

5) Negatives

In English it’s much more natural to express a negative with not all … rather than all…don’t/doesn’t

“All Irish people don’t like whiskey” is a little strange, it’s much more natural to say

Not all Irish people like whiskey”

Note this difference also:

Not all birds can fly (some birds can’t fly)

No bird can play football (there is no bird in existence that can play football – at least not that I know of!)

6) Every [one/body/thing] + verb

We can’t normally use all without a noun phrase. Let’s look at two examples;

All the people started shouting (the people = noun phrase)

Everyone/body started shouting (no noun phrase and we use the verb directly after everyone/body)

We can’t say: all started shouting

7) Responding to questions

If someone asks you a question like;

“What do you like about learning English?”

You can’t respond by saying “all” you must use “everything” because everything about learning English is wonderful , right? 😉

Another example;

“Who was at the party last night?”

“Everyone” (not all).

9) All as ‘everything’

In some cases all can mean everything. Normally this has the same connotation as “the only thing”. For example:

“All I want is to find a good sofa at a decent price” = (The only thing I want is to find a good sofa at a decent price”

We can also use it to mean “everything” but usually only with a relative clause;

“She lost all [that] she had because of her gambling addiction” (all that she had = relative clause). Here we can also say everything

“She lost everything [that] she had because of her gambling addiction.”

And that’s basically all you need to know about the word “all” [all + relative clause = everything]. Please share the article if you found it useful it really helps me out. If you have any questions feel free to comment & I’ll reply ASAP

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