all versus all of

Discussion in 'English Only' started by hfpardue, Aug 9, 2007.

  1. hfpardue

    hfpardue Senior Member

    Santiago de Chile
    United States - English
    Hi, everyone. Can anyone tell me when to use all and all of? It normally seems like I can use them interchangeably, but I was wondering if there was a rule. Here is an example,

    All of these people are nice / All these people are nice

    I would say either one of them, but is one incorrect? Thanks.
  2. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    Rule of thumb: drop of before possessive pronouns its, my, our, his, her, and their and the relative pronoun that (Here is a list of all his accomplishments). Drop of before collective and plural nouns (Look at all the people in the stadium).

    Use of before singular nouns (Did he eat all of the cake), the impersonal pronoun it (Yes, he ate all of it), and objective case pronouns me, you, us, them, whom (Do all of you understand).

    From what I read, the of should be avoided whenever possible.
  3. hfpardue

    hfpardue Senior Member

    Santiago de Chile
    United States - English
    Thanks, river. Your explanation has helped me quite a bit.
  4. KHS

    KHS Senior Member

    This sounds really good, but I'm not sure that it reflects actual usage, even in academic written American English.

    Because of that, I took out my Fowler's Modern English Usage (2nd ed, from 1985). I quote:
    all of. All of the ministers were present. / In all of the book there is no better chapter. This intrusive of was said by the OED in 1888 to be a comparatively modern construction, and rare except with pronouns (all of whom, all of us, etc.). It has since made headway, especially in U.S., but in Britain all the ministers and in all the book are still regarded as prefereable.

    In Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman's The Grammar Book (2nd ed, 1999), they say:
    Prescriptive grammarians have insisted that it is unneccessary to use the of after the quantifiers all and both...except when they precede a pronoun, in which case of is required. It is true that neither all nor both need of to signal a specific noun following them, because the semantics of all and both demand that the noun be specific...However, the use of of with all and both is quite common, especially in North American English...presumably by analogy with other quantifiers.

    This latter quote in particular fits with my sense of American usage.

  5. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The New Fowler (1996/98) is different - it doesn't mention AE usage.
    The construction with of is comparatively modern (first recorded c.1800), and is probably due to form-association with none of, some of, little of, much of, few of, many of. (OED).

    Looking in the British National Corpus, there are many instances of "all of the <plural noun>" and "all of these <plural noun>". They sound normal to me.
  6. timtak New Member

    Japan and British English
    So, "all of" before (possessive) pronouns, "all" before plurals, and either "all" or "all of" before singular nouns, but "all" is preferable even before singular nouns, especially in the UK.

    But there seems to be other things going on, and there may be some sort of reasoning for the observed usage.

    For example, "all of" before "the" seems to be prolific, and seems to allow the use of "all of" before even plurals. E.g. Googling:
    "All of the lights" (a song)
    "they were used to explain all of the disasters that had befallen the country"
    If there were no "the" then the above "all of" usages would be unacceptable. Why?

    Is there any difference in meaning between the usages?
    "All the lights" vs "All of the lights"
    "All the disasters" "all of the disasters"
    or in the singular....
    "He ate all of the cake" and "he ate all the cake"? The former sounds more emphatic. As if he might have eaten a part of the cake but went ahead and ate all of it.

    Which leads me to

    And why do we use "of" before pronouns? Is it just a random grammatical foible or is there some sense to this usage? My feeling is that "of" suggests a part or subset of the following noun and thus contradicts the "all" which refers to the complete set or entireity of the following noun. When it comes to pronouns, however, that contradiction is not only allowed but encouraged, because we want to refer to a complete set of a subset. In this way, "all of us" means the complete set of the subset of things refered to by the word "us," in this utterance, and not the complete set of all things that can be refered to as "us" in all utterances. Maybe? Or maybe not at all.

    All of us hate fish.
    All us hate fish. (sounds colloquial)
    This is all of me.
    This is all me? (sounds different, not my entirety but entirely characteristic of me).

    The use of "of" before pronouns may be to avoid this second (allowable?) meaning. E.g. Listening to a recording of a song sung by several signers taking turns, one of the singers says "This next bit is all me," which is may be correct but different in meaning to the "all of me" in "Do you love all of me?"
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2012
  7. Pertinax

    Pertinax Senior Member

    Queensland, Aust
    They have no difference in meaning to me, and I use both forms. Which one I use is probably determined only by the rhythm of the sentence, and by how brief I want to be. For example, I would use "of" in Lincoln's "You may fool all of the people some of the time..." to keep the parallel with "some".

    Other posters have cited various versions of Fowler's Modern English Usage. I found no entry for "all of" in the original 1926 version, but I did find at least one instance where Fowler himself uses "all of" ("Whether all of these inversions are bad,..."). I also found instances of "some or all of", and "any or all of" - where the grammaticality of "all of" is clearly helpful.

    I wonder if even the form "all we" was originally grammatical, as it occurs in Handel's Messiah, quoting Isaiah 53:6. I don't think I would say "all us", but I hear phrases such as "all us paupers" or "all you lot" now and then.
  8. timtak New Member

    Japan and British English
    So there is there no sense, no rhyme nor reason (or rather just rhyme, but not reason) to the usage?

    I am trying to find ways of explain the usage to non native speakers.

    "All us paupers" is interesting, in that it includes the complete set, paupers, and thus excludes the remaining totality of the set of persons that could be refered to as "us".

    I think that when there is a doubling of the prounoun with a noun then all becomes fairly common "all them Frenchies," "all those people over there,"
    indeed "all my friends" looks okay in this light. So could the problem with "all" before solitary pronouns be that it tends to refer to more than the speaker wants to refer to, to
    'all possible usses' and not just the limited referent, "all us paupers", "all us teachers", to which the speaker would refer?
  9. Julien Sorel

    Julien Sorel Senior Member

    Inglés americano
    It would seem that in this respect, "the" British variety of English differs from "the" American. I'm inclined to agree with KHS on the matter: in AE at least, dropping the "of" after "all" and "both" sounds substandard from a prescriptivist point of view; the maintenance thereof, in other words, sounds more natural/native-like/normal, whether or not it be prescriptivistically correct or necessary.
  10. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Why do you say that, Julien?:confused:

    Is "all the books" non-standard in AmE?
  11. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 75)
    UK English
    This is not the view of Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage (2002), which says "Since there is no practical importance to this question, it is a wonder that so many commentators bother with it".
  12. Julien Sorel

    Julien Sorel Senior Member

    Inglés americano
    Howdy Loob. Your question, as well as the comment of e2efour, has revealed to me the hastiness of my response to the original question! While it is certain that one will hear in this neck of the woods (i.e. in the U.S. southwest) such as you've asked about ("all the books"), as per my intuition (admittedly a rather non-statistically-representative source), it is definitely less formal, say, to drop the "of"; in academic writing, for example, I'd definitely recommend that one maintain it, and in certain linguistic contexts even orally I personally (be it arbitrarily) think that it sounds better maintained, such as:

    - "all"/"both" + demonstrative adjective: "all/?both these/those books are real" vs. :thumbsup: "all/both of these/those books are real"
    - "all"/"both" + personal object pronoun: "?all/?both you/us/them are very sharp" vs. :thumbsup: "all/both of you/us/themare very sharp"
    - "all" + singular noun: "all the meat/food/milk in the refrigerator is rotten" vs. :thumbsup: "all of the meat/food/milk in the refrigerator is rotten"
    - But for a counter-example, "all (*both) the books in the store are on sale" seems quite fine to me for informal settings. :eek:
    - And for another, "both pairs are too small" sounds better than "both of the pairs are too small." :D

    In any case, orally the perceptive difference between the two versions with "all" ("all"/"all of") is minimal, as the "of" is usually swallowed up in the pronunciation of "all" (≈ "alv"), although this is not the case with "both", the "of" there not ostensibly allowing itself to be elided to such a degree.

  13. Imber Ranae Senior Member

    English - USA
    I can't agree with that. It often sounds better to drop the 'of', especially after 'both' where it saves two syllables by removing the need for a definite article as well.
  14. Julien Sorel

    Julien Sorel Senior Member

    Inglés americano
    Examples Imber Ranae?

    Cf. as well my reply to Loob and e2efour.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2012
  15. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I confess, I don't understand your answer, Julien. I think you're saying you've changed your mind and "all the books" is OK?
  16. Julien Sorel

    Julien Sorel Senior Member

    Inglés americano
    I apologize, Loob, I thought I was fairly explicit. :eek: What I am attempting (badly, it would seem) to say is that it appears to me that within certain linguistic contexts the whole set of which is by me unknown, in my region, the dropping of the "of" after such predeterminers as "all" and "both" is perfectly fine in informal situations, for example, in "all the books in the store are on sale"; that within others, the elision sounds to my ears highly questionable, as in ?"all the book is well-written"; and that in general, especially in formal registers, it would seem safest to maintain the preposition, that is, that therein the version with the preposition would seem to be the lesser-marked version of the two.

    Hope that clears up any doubts.
  17. Imber Ranae Senior Member

    English - USA
    Maybe I wasn't clear, but I meant that I don't think "dropping the of" is informal at all in AmE. If anything, I find it more formal, as it has more of a literary quality about it, e.g. "all the king's horses and all the king's men" And why do you speak of "dropping the of" when historically it's the other way round, namely adding the "of".

    I'm afraid I have no idea what kind of examples you desire of me.
  18. kuckunniwi

    kuckunniwi Senior Member

    English, Spanish, Catalan & Gibberish
    As to American use, Garner's Modern American usage (3rd edition) says:

    all. A. All (of). The more formal construction is to omit of and write, when possible, “All the
    attempts failed.” E.g.: “With the end to fighting, the group was disbanded, and all its members
    were ordered to burn their identity papers and go into hiding.” P.H. Ferguson, “End of War
    Gave Life to Would-Be Kamikazes,” Austin Am.-Statesman, 3 Sept. 1995, at A20. Although all
    of is more common in AmE than in BrE, it should generally be avoided in formal writing. See
    of (A).

    In two circumstances, though, all of is the better choice. The first is when a pronoun
    follows <all of them>, unless the pronoun is serving as an adjective, either possessive <all my
    belongings> or demonstrative <all that jazz>. The second is when a possessive noun follows—
    e.g.: “Beyond all of Jones’ ego-stroking maneuvers and incessant need for attention, this is
    what he is talking about.” Paul Daugherty, “Cowboys Owner Smarter than Average Bear,”
    Cincinnati Enquirer, 8 Sept. 1995, at B1.

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