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The situation is that someone asks me how my family are; I then want to answer that they all are fine.

I want to know whether the sentences "They all are fine." and "They are all fine." have the same meaning.

Is there any difference? To me as a non-native English speaker, "They all are fine." seems better — it should mean that each of my family members is fine whereas "They are all fine." should mean that each of my family members is completely fine. Please correct my understanding if there is anything wrong.

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Your suggestions are both fine. They both mean the same thing. –  Peter Shor Sep 19 '12 at 13:47
I regret voting to close. The evidence is starting to stack up that there's a significant US/UK difference involved here even for OP's exact example. There are certainly other idiomatic peculiarities about the placement of "all" in various constructions. –  FumbleFingers Sep 20 '12 at 15:58
The answer, at least as far as the OP is concerned) should be "they are all fine". This is by far the most common usage in the U.S., and the alternative seems to be ungrammatical in the U.K. It is clearly what should be taught to ESL students. –  Peter Shor Sep 21 '12 at 4:26
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closed as general reference by Matt Эллен, FumbleFingers, Robusto, Carlo_R., MετάEd Sep 19 '12 at 19:58

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

2 Answers

"They are all fine" is the correct usage.

To simplify to three words, I would say "They are fine". In this case 'all' is implied by the fact that only one word is used to describe the state of all my family members. If you add 'all', it is making explicit that every member of my family is fine, not just most of them - as a result it needs to be directly before "fine", rather than elsewhere in the sentence.

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You have got the meanings almost right.

'They all are fine.'

all my family members are fine.

'They are all fine.'

all my family members are fine.

The stress in the first instance is on all (Is everyone fine?), whereas in the second, it's on fine (How is everyone?).

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I don't recognise this distinction. When the verb is a form of be, all is placed after it. Placing "all" between the subject and verb is simply an unusual stylistic variation - it conveys no special meaning in OP's context. –  FumbleFingers Sep 19 '12 at 12:47
Why the downvotes? I think "they are all fine" is the usual way to say this, but if I wanted to stress the word all, then I'd be likely to rearrange the words and say "they all are fine" (since I don't think all can take much stress in the first word order). On the other hand, you can use both expressions without stressing the word all, in which case they mean essentially the same thing. –  Peter Shor Sep 19 '12 at 13:50
@FumbleFingers, et al.: If everyone whose opinion differs from mine would want to down vote, we will need to rewrite our ELU rules. My answer is based on empirical data, not personal opinion. Down voting has a different purpose -- "this answer is not useful", not "I don't recognise this distinction." –  Kris Sep 20 '12 at 7:22
@Peter Shor: My downvote is because placing "all" before the noun is a very uncommon stylistic variation. So much so that I'd guess the form occurs more often through linguistic incompetence than as a deliberate style choice. Since so many visitors here are not competent speakers, I think it's at the very least desirable that where one of two "technically valid" alternatives is overwhelmingly the more common, that fact should be spelt out. –  FumbleFingers Sep 20 '12 at 12:29
@Kris: I wasn't aware of any "rules" telling me how I can (or even should) cast my votes. Not only do I not recognise your distinction in meaning - I don't accept "They all are fine" as standard/normal English in the first place, and I posted a link to a site confirming my position on that. –  FumbleFingers Sep 20 '12 at 12:33
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