All I receive is/are...

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Italian - Italy
I apologize if this has been discussed before but my search yielded countless results.

If the noun following all I receive... is plural is are the correct form and would is be acceptable in colloquial English? I am writing a formal complaint.

Thanks for your patience
  • Aupick

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    My instincts tell me it should remain singular:

    All I get from you is problems, problems, problems!
    All I ever receive for Christmas is socks and underwear.
    All I want is a few cents.

    I don't think you could use 'are' in these cases. You can use the plural in these sentences however:

    All were very happy with the outcome.
    Of the 31 students, all passed the test.

    but in these cases 'all' is a pronoun representing an entity that is clearly plural. You can only say 'all were very happy' if it is clear who you're talking about. 'All' is inhabited by the plural entity it represents

    In the first three examples, all is separated from what it ultimately represents (problems, socks, cents) by being placed in a separate clause. 'All' remains undefined until the second clause, and so is equivalent to 'the only thing'. It's an empty anticipation, impersonal if you like, standing in for a delayed direct object that does not yet inhabit it, and so doesn't have enough substance to be plural.

    Let's hope that hasn't completely muddied the waters while we wait for a real grammarian to come along.


    Senior Member
    USA English
    Aupick said:
    My instincts tell me it should remain singular:
    I respectfully disagree. The context determines whether to use the singular or plural.

    All I ever get from you is problems. Turn it around.

    Problems is all I ever get from you. (Problems is does not have noun/verb agreement)


    All I received is one sock.

    All I received are two socks.
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