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What do Online Dictionaries Say?

Cambridge Dictionaries Online says each is used as an adverb in the following examples:

There are five leaflets – please take one of each.
Each of the brothers has a different personality.
It’s 500 miles each way.
The bill comes to $80, so that’s $20 each

Oxford Dictionaries says each is a determiner and a pronoun in the following

each one of us was asked what went on (determiner)
Derek had money from each of his five uncles (pronoun)

Merriam-Webster's entry for each states it is an adjective,

A rope was tied to each end of the boat.
Each student had a different explanation.

a pronoun,

He took shot after shot, each missing by inches

and an adverb

They cost 50 cents each.
We were allowed two tries each.

But Wikipedia tells me that each is an indefinite pronoun

Each of the players has a doctor

and Grammar Monster (which btw I really like) says that each is an indefinite adjective

An indefinite adjective is used to describe a noun in a non-specific sense.

The most common indefinite adjectives are: any, each, few, many, much, most, several, and some. They are often used to describe a noun to show an element of uncertainty.

Indefinite adjectives should not be confused with indefinite pronouns. Indefinite adjectives modify nouns or pronouns. Indefinite pronouns are standalone pronouns


  1. I gave my friends a book each
  2. I gave each a book
  3. I gave each of my three friends a book
  4. I gave a book to each one of my friends
  5. Each one of my friends received a book
  6. Each friend of mine received a book

I believe that all the sentences above are grammatical. If any are considered non-standard in English, please please tell me!


  • For sentence No. 1, I cannot find a satisfying "tag" to place on each. Since the word "each" is placed at the end of a sentence, I suppose it must be an adverb but it feels like a quantifier to me because it tell me how many books, i.e. to each of my friends. Is each in No.1 an adverb? Why?

  • Sentence 2 is definitely a pronoun.

  • For sentences 3, 4, and 5 "each of" and "each one of" can be substituted with all of, with no loss in meaning. But are each of and each one of pronouns? If we use a pronoun to replace a noun phrase or a noun, then how can each in: each (one) of my friends be a pronoun? And I imagine it can't be an indefinite pronoun because we know exactly "how many" people in sentence 3. Oxford Dictionaries suggest that each of is a pronoun but each one of is a determiner.

  • In sentence 6 each is an adjective/determiner/indefinite adjective because it tells us something about the number of friends. Right?

marked as duplicate by user66974, Chenmunka, tchrist, Drew, FumbleFingers Mar 6 '15 at 17:52

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  • Your six sentences are fine, grammatical and otherwise unexceptionable. Why are you worried? The only slight grating on my ear might be #1 (I probably would prefer to say "a book apiece" there) but that is my own idiosyncrasy. – Robusto Mar 2 '15 at 12:23
  • @Robusto I'm preparing a handout for a private student, and I wanted to double-check. It's really the POS that's bothering me. Some students demand to know the classification of a word, and this is one of them. Thanks for swift reply :) – Mari-Lou A Mar 2 '15 at 12:27
  • 1
    of each, adverb??? – TRomano Mar 2 '15 at 12:36
  • 2
    John Lawler says "Quantifier." english.stackexchange.com/questions/116662/… – ScotM Mar 2 '15 at 19:25
  • 2
    His answer seems to indicate that "Qunatifier" is the best way to think about each as a POS, and that its formulations are variations on the "quantifier theme". This idea of Q-float seems particularly useful for your question about #1, which seems to shift "each" from the prenominal position in "each of my friends" to an adverbial position. In fact, each of your six sentences are a variation on the same "quantifier theme": "each of my friends." – ScotM Mar 2 '15 at 19:51

In a related question, John Lawler has suggested Quantifier as the designation for each:

In linguistics and grammar, a quantifier is a type of determiner, such as all, some, many, few, a lot, and no, (but not numerals)... that indicates quantity.

The Wikipedia article recognizes the difficulty of analyzing quantifiers in natural language:

The study of quantification in natural languages is much more difficult than the corresponding problem for formal languages. This comes in part from the fact that the grammatical structure of natural language sentences may conceal the logical structure. Moreover, mathematical conventions strictly specify the range of validity for formal language quantifiers; for natural language, specifying the range of validity requires dealing with non-trivial semantic problems. For example the sentence "Someone gets mugged in New York every 10 minutes" does not identify whether it is the same person getting mugged every 10 minutes....

Each of the six sentences in the OP share a common logical meaning:

Y received a book

Where Y is the quantified group: each of my friends.

In the first four sentences, the agent is identified with the active voice of give, while the identity of the agent is suppressed in the passive euivalent of receive for sentences 5-6. Additionally, each sentence adds or reduces identifying information without changing the common logical meaning of the sentence, but in doing this changes the interaction of the words and phrases.

  1. I gave my friends a book each.

This is the logical equivalent to: I gave each of my friends a book, where:

  • gave is the transitive verb
  • I is the agent of the action
  • a book is the theme of the action
  • each of my friends is the recipient

As John Lawler explained the Q-float: "each of my friends" is transformed, eliminating the of and moving each from its normal prenominal position into an adverbial position:

I gave my friends a book each, where:

  • gave is the transitive verb
  • I is the agent of the action
  • a book is the theme of the action
  • my friends is the recipient
  • each identifies ambiguously with gave or my friends

It is ambiguous because each has floated to the end of the sentence, but one can reasonably parse each as an adverb. "The grammatical structure conceals the logical structure" slightly, but the natural reader, who rarely bothers to parse consciously, can intuitively interpret the common logical meaning: Each of my friends received a book, with an added emphasis on each.

  1. I gave each a book.

This is a much simpler analysis. Each of my friends is reduced to each, which is used as a pronoun recipient. Again the natural reader infers the common logical meaning: Each of my friends received a book, but they are probably expecting clearer identification in the larger context.

  1. I gave each of my three friends a book.

Adding the extra modifier three does not change the quantifier function in this construction. It behaves like all, because all is also a quantifier. Because the phrase is reduced so naturally, each can be parsed as a pronoun recipient. Still the natural reader interprets the common meaning: Each of my friends received a book, with the additional information.

  1. I gave a book to each one of my friends

Since quantifiers are a type of determiner, this is simply adding one determiner to another along the lines of "any other". Again, the phrase is reduced so naturally, each is parsed routinely as a pronoun. The natural reader interprets the common meaning: Each of my friends received a book, with the additional emphasis of each one.

  1. Each one of my friends received a book.

The shift to the passive equivalent "received" subdues the identity of the agent, emphasizing the theme and the recipient. Once again, the natural lister automatically gets it.

  1. Each friend of mine received a book.

This construction is the clearest use of each as a quantifier, making it very easy to label it with the more general tag: determiner. Each friend of mine is the logical (and linguistic) equivalent to each of my friends, so the natural reader interprets the same common meaning: Each of my friends received a book.


The grammatical usage of the quantifier each may change with different constructions, but each of the uses is logically connected to its function as a quantifier.

  • Thank you for making this sound relatively straightforward. I understood everything, which worries me because normally linguistics jargon confuses me :) Brill! – Mari-Lou A Mar 2 '15 at 23:15
  • 1
    You may find it easy to understand, because I am not really fluent in linguistese, so I use it very sparingly. – ScotM Mar 2 '15 at 23:17

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