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I was recently trying to explain to a non-native English speaking colleague the meaning of the phrase "in no event" which often appears in legal documents. This produced the question: "Can you say 'in all events' to mean the opposite?" My curiosity piqued, I did a search in Google. First, as I expected, I noticed many hits for the word combination "in all events" in commonplace sentences such as "I am participating in all events." However, to my surprise, I also saw examples of "In all events" at the beginning of sentences, used in the manner that my colleague had imagined.

For example, I found this sentence at the end of Section 3 of a text on the Classified Information Procedures Act by Jim McAdams, Senior Legal Instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center:

"In all events, you, the Criminal Investigator, should consult with the CSO concerning the transporting of classified documents through unclassified areas."

So, then, is "In all events" an acceptable phrase and can it be used in legal documents as a counterpart to the expression "In no event."?

To give a specific example, if we are given the sentence: "In no event shall we be liable for XYZ," could we write the sentence: "In all events, we shall not be liable for XYZ" to convey the same meaning?

  • Note that in all events isn't one of the standard expressions. At all events used to be common, but it's largely replaced nowadays by in any event. In OP's context, events is somewhat unusual in that most people would naturally use the word cases there. – FumbleFingers Dec 7 '11 at 18:17
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For specific legal language used in a given locale, you should consult a lawyer.

That said, I think the typical phrase is in any event. (Also common is the structure in the event of X.)

This is used not just in legal documents, but also in ordinary speech meaning in any case or as a transition meaning anyway.

  • Also "at any event" and "at all events", at least in BrE – Colin Fine Dec 7 '11 at 10:49
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The OED defines at all events as meaning ‘whatever happens, in any case’. It shows in all events as an obsolete form with the same meaning, but your Google search suggests it may still be current in the United States. You really need a lawyer to comment on your question, but my own feeling is that In no event, meaning ‘in no circumstances whatever’, is the form most likely to be found in legal documents, and that In all events followed by a negative is an unlikely substitute. It gets the sentence off on the wrong footing, suggesting initially that something will always be the case, rather than never being the case.

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In reading "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson, I encountered several instances of starting sentences with "At all events" where I would have used "In any event". He is very well read but perhaps too well read in OBSOLETE literature.

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