I have eaten them all


I have eaten them all.


Thay are all gone.


Everything is all my fault.





I know that the speech part of "all" is really various and we should figure it out by contexts. However, like the examples above, we do not have to waste time trying to figure it out because whether we see it as a pronoun or an adverb meaning "completely", the intended meanings of each sentence are the same or very similar. What do you experts think about it?


Thank you so much as usual and have a good day.

asked Sep 06 '12 at 03:09 Hans Contributor

3 answers


If we study grammar, we need to figure out how words function in a sentence. However, you do not have to understand the technical issues of grammar to understand the meaning of a sentence.


Most native speakers receive less than a year's worth of formal grammar education -- and that occurs in the fourth or fifth grade. They are able to listen, speak, read, and write reasonably well -- even if the don't know whether all is an adverb or a pronoun in your sentences. Knowing whether it is an adverb or a pronoun doesn't change how you read it.


But! Knowing what it is helps the student of language understand not the meaning of the sentence, but how words function to create the meaning. That knowledge helps many students write better sentences and avoid mistakes.


In your first sentence, all is a pronoun. In the last two sentences, it is an adverb. 


If you understand the definitions of adverbs and pronouns, you cannot read the sentences any other way. That is, one cannot say that reading all as an adverb in the first sentence is not important because the meaning of the sentence doesn't change. The meaning doesn't change because it is not an adverb and cannot be read as an adverb.

link edited Sep 06 '12 at 04:23 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Thank you and I am surprised that even native English speakers study English grammar for a short period, and I feel like sometimes whether "all" is an adverb or a pronoun, the intended meanings are not that different, especially in the second sentence. In the end, we cannot see them anymore. So my question is that sometimes the speech part of "all" can be both and the intended meanings can be the same or similar? Or even though we misunderstand it, it does not cause big trouble? Because the speakers talk kind of vaguely, it is not entirely my fault. What do you think? Thank you so much.

HansSep 06 '12 at 12:07

See my answer #2.

Jeff PribylSep 06 '12 at 14:29

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Answer #2


I see what you mean about the second sentence - They are all gone.  The sentence is vague and it is the speaker/writer's fault..


There is a difference in meaning between the pronoun use and the adverb use. If all in the sentence sentence is an adverb, it means "They are completely gone" (the focus is on the degree to which they are gone). If it is a pronoun, the sentence means "All of them are gone" (the focus is on the fact that none are still here). The meanings are similar, but not identical. Because they are similar (in this case), it does not cause trouble. In either case, they are no longer here. We just don't quite understand the emphasis the writer wishes to place on the meaning. For instance:


The cookies are all gone. Did the writer intend to mean --> All of the cookies have been eaten and not a crumb remains (adverb use with the focus being the degree of are gone)?  Or did the writer just mean to inform us that no cookies remain (pronoun use)? In speech, we can often tell because of the inflection placed on all. But in writing, it is vague.

link answered Sep 06 '12 at 14:29 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Thank you so much. Your replies have been really helpful and clear. How can I thank you enough? And sometimes whether we choose to use adverbs or adjectives, I feel like there is not much difference in meaning as a non native English speaker. For example, "live a happy life" VS. "live life happily". What do you think? I know this is not related to the original question, but I just would like you to say yes or no if you do not mind. I am sorry for taking your time too much today :)

HansSep 06 '12 at 15:01

See my answer #3.

Jeff PribylSep 06 '12 at 15:33

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Answer #3


No, I don't think they mean the same thing. And now I must wax philosophical about how one should live life.


When you say "live a happy life" you are wishing that their life be free of troubles, cares, and worries. Because it is free of troubles, life is happy.  But if you say "live life happily" you are wishing that whatever trouble may come their way, they will embrace life with happiness.


Again, this is the difference between the adjective -- which describes life -- and the adverb -- which describes how it is lived. The adjective describes the result, while the adverb describes the process of living.


No one can live a perfectly happy life.  Bad things happen to all of us. But it is how we face those troubles that makes a difference. People who can live life happily tend to survive troubles well and even grow from the experience.

link answered Sep 06 '12 at 15:32 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Wow. You are great!! I have never thought about it, and I think "live happily" has the same meaning as "live life happily, but "live a happy life". Thank you for the philosophical explanation. I like it :)

HansSep 06 '12 at 16:18

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