These different dictionarys don't agree about what part-of-speech "all" is when it goes between subject and verb:

For Cambridge dictionary is an adverb

  • The kids all go to school on the same bus. link

For Macmillan dictionary is a pronoun

  • These buildings all belong to the college. link

For Merrian-Webster dictionary is an adjective

  • They all came late.
  • We all need to work faster. link

I am a little confused about them. Can some of you explain them? Thanks for your answers

  • The word fire can be a verb or a noun, depending on how it's used. The construction of the sentence around it determines its grammatical function. Why do you think that all can't have similar grammatical functions? Why can't it be an adverb, a pronoun, or an adjective, depending on specific context? Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 0:23
  • In fact, your question seems disingenuous. Merriam-Webster does not say that all is only an adjective. It clearly gives definitions for all three grammatical functions. (The other dictionaries also give multiple definitions.) The fact that it goes between a subject and verb is insufficient to determine a single function. Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 0:25

1 Answer 1


This has come up before here. "All" in these examples is a floated quantifier, produced by the transformation "Quantifier Float". However, if you think that this rule functions to convert a quantifier into an adverb, then it is also reasonable to classify it as an adverb. McCawley discusses this in Syntactic Phen. and argues that the special case of "all" after a pronoun is from a different rule: Quantifier Pronoun Flip.

  • You can also float both and each in the same way, but perhaps not every such quantifier.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 3:50

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