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Is there any difference between "all X", "all of the X", "all the X"? E.g.,

  • all friends
  • all of the friends
  • all the friends
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GR... and related: Is “of” necessary in “all of”? – Elberich Schneider Sep 5 '12 at 7:45
Also related: difference-between-all-and-all-the. But the answers there are inadequate. – StoneyB Sep 5 '12 at 18:04
@StoneyB - highly inadequate. I would even start a bounty there, but judging from my previous experience at ELU, it will likely end in naught. – CopperKettle Jan 10 at 21:24
up vote 7 down vote accepted

All friends is global: it means all friends of anybody anywhere, everybody who may be characterized as a friend. "All friends are to be cherished."

All the friends (or All of the friends—there is no difference of meaning, as the responses to the question cited above by Xavier Vidal Hernández tell you) means all of a specific group of friends—the friends who roomed together at Princeton in 1983 or the current Friends of the Art Museum. "All the friends met for dinner on Tuesday."

This is complicated a little by the fact that in a context where a group of friends has previously been specified, explicitly or implicitly, the definite article may be omitted. For instance, if a notice in the Newsletter of the Friends of the Art Museum states "All friends are invited to dinner on Tuesday", this is unlikely to be misinterpreted.

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A very clear and helpful answer, thanks StoneyB :) – Monica Sep 5 '12 at 21:20
We can say all the friends instead of "all of the friends" but not "some the friends"? – Ahmad Sep 1 '15 at 8:02
@Ahmad That's right. – StoneyB Sep 1 '15 at 11:17

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