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I am wondering whether the sentence

That school has all smart students

is a valid alternative to

All the students of that school are smart.

Is it idiomatic/grammatically sound? (Let's assume that there is no risk of ambiguity, namely that by reading the first sentence no one is going to think that e.g. all the smart students of the town go that school.)

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    Yes, native English speakers (at least in America) might say a sentence like that. But the tone is somewhat informal, and there does exist the risk of ambiguity that you mentioned. BTW, "at" is a more natural sounding preposition in the sentence, "All the students at that school are smart." – William Bloom Mar 30 '15 at 10:30
  • @WilliamBloom It definitely isn't a natural way of expressing the idea contained in the second sentence in British English. – dorothy Mar 30 '15 at 11:43
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The first sentence should be changed to

That school has /only/just/ smart students.

to be equivalent to the 2nd one.

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It is interesting to try to work out what

That school has all smart students

might actually mean. It certainly isn't a natural way of saying

All the students of that school are smart.

One interpretation is that each student in that school is smart but has no other positive attribute. However a more likely interpretation would be that they all think they are very smart and are somewhat arrogant about it. In particular the use of "That" in such a short sentence implies you are making some value judgement about the school rather than simply describing it.

In any case, in British English at least, it sounds like slang.

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  • I’d say that was just chosen somewhat randomly to fit a brief example; it might as well have been this or the (both of which would have made the sentence sound awkward, devoid of context). I wonder how you arrive at the arrogant interpretation, though—I can’t think of any way to imbue the sentence with any such meaning. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 30 '15 at 11:54
  • @JanusBahsJacquet It's the use of the slang "all smart" combined with the word "That". It sounds like they think they are "all that" or just generically are something special. Had it started with "The" it would sound a little different you are right. i grant you it may also sound completely different in US English. – dorothy Mar 30 '15 at 11:55
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    Let’s try with an example that gives more context and thus sounds more cohesive and is less likely to sound out of place: “I grew up in a small town and was bullied a lot in school because I was ‘different’ from most of the country kids. Then we moved to London and I started at a school which had all city kids who were used to people being different, and the bullying almost completely stopped at once”. Do you find that unnatural, too? I think that is probably exactly the way I would naturally phrase it (or perhaps just “a school with all city kids”, avoiding the relative clause altogether). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 30 '15 at 12:04
  • @JanusBahsJacquet It's clear what you mean but it doesn't like proper English to me, no. You could perhaps say "It was all city kids at the school." as an alternative. – dorothy Mar 30 '15 at 12:37

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