How would you rephrase 'all you can ever be influenced'? (In) all (that) or (in) all (where)? To me this 'all' seems like a relative adverb but no old school grammar book has 'all' explained as a relative adverb. Any and all other examples where 'all' is used like this one, not as an antecedent for a relative pronoun, would maybe help me understand this construct.

If it ever was true, does the possibility even exist for it to be true today? At your age, can anyone still influence you in a bad way? Or have you been influenced all you can ever be influenced, both good and bad? ('The 50-Year Dash' by Bob Greene)

  • Just because all is placed directly in front of you, that doesn't mean that's what it's modifying. Here, it's possible it's acting as an adjective to the entire phrase you can ever be influenced. That would be because all you can ever be influenced is a measurable amount. But I'm not certain of that. If it isn't, then, as with all of us and for all I know, all is actually a pronoun. Apr 25, 2020 at 5:41
  • To me, for the preceding clause, 'all' is acting as an adverb, as in 'all the way,' 'all the time' etc., and for the following clause, well, after I read LPH's post, as a pronoun with 'with' at the rear of 'you can ever be influenced with' dropped???
    – Sssamy
    Apr 25, 2020 at 8:34
  • Or, else both clause could have dropped 'with.' Have you been influenced (with) all (that) you can ever be influenced (with). In this case, 'all' is a pronoun. What do you say?
    – Sssamy
    Apr 25, 2020 at 8:36
  • Or, now that I've pondered on it for some time, I suppose this is a unique type of adverbial objective, with a clause describing the area of the adverbial. Normally adverbial objective 'all' precedes a noun: all day, all the time, all the way etc.
    – Sssamy
    Apr 25, 2020 at 11:35
  • Based on the two senses of all in the dictionary, and the examples given, I find it unlikely that it's acting in an adverbial sense. But even if it is, it's certainly not modifying only you. Of course, you could dispute what's in the dictionary—some linguists will do that—but you'd have to then point to even more specialized resources. Apr 25, 2020 at 12:32

1 Answer 1


All the combinations extracted from both of these,

  • "Have you been influenced (in) all (that) you can ever be influenced?",
  • "Have you been influenced (in) all where you can ever be influenced?",

are awkward sentences, at best. It seems to me that the way out of such an awkward phrasing is to change it altogether.

Most likely, "all you can ever be influenced" has to be taken as meaning "all the influence that can be brought to bear upon you". I'd therefore write this.

  • Have you been subjected to all the influence that can be brought to bear upon you?

In any case, this is a consideration of a rather philosophical nature where the fundamental basis is uncertain: the premiss of a maximum of influence as determined for a given individual does not really exist; this maximum is defined for nobody, nobody has a true idea of what could be this maximum influence, no idea of what context among some possible ones could be propitious to the materialization of a maximum level of influence. This makes it an unlikely sentence.

Addition due to a comment from user Sssamy, repeated here for convenience

I think your first example resembles this 'influence' construct in that 'all' is not directly an object, but probably called an adverbial object nonetheless. I came up with some sentences. I gather my first would pass as fine but the rest would not. What do you think? (a) You probably need the same verb before and after 'all.' (b) Having 'can' after 'all' is a plus. (c) The latter clause should be complete (= it can stand alone). (1) You will be helped all you can be helped. (2) People will help you all they can help you. (3) You will be helped all you try to achieve. (4) You will be helped all you try to achieve a goal.

This turn is strange to me, I haven't read nor heard anyone use it, ever; as I read it I don't identify rapidly what is being said and it is only after reflection that I can give it some sense. It sounds a little as sounds the idiomatic turn in "I all but fell.", and I can conceive it as such, just an idiomatic turn, albeit not in use and yet to be forged into the language. In fact, your prescription for the grammar of this turn is typical of that which the nature of idiomaticity forces upon the grammarian's reflection: terms that are necessary, that are also unchangeable, there being in the structure in the end but few things that can be used according to the usual variability that composability and grammar endows them with; that is idiomaticity in essence, there is no grammar, no grammatical relations on which to fall back. Short of this idiomatic point of view, I persist then in looking on this construction as ungrammatical.

I truly don't see how the two verbs being the same could contribute to the grammatical relations nor which relation in particular. Why not consider imposing this restriction for the subject (which is the same in your initial example)? This is just as arbitrary; such criteria are not used by grammarians or if they are the occasions must be very rare; I've never heard of those principles. I am curious to know what would be your rendering of these sentences in a phrasing into which can be clearly read the grammatical relations.

  • This construct looks like an extrapolation of 'all the way,' 'all the time,' etc. where 'all' is considered to be an adverb, except that the 'all' takes a clause afterwards. 'You can ever be influenced' can be a complete sentence, and 'all' is connecting it to the preceding clause as what? To me it looks like what could be called a relative adverb, equivalent to 'in all things where,' therefore, meaning the highest degree of influence, --- a relative adverb denoting 'in all things where,' could be likened to a relative pronoun 'what,' which includes the antecedent,'the thing(s) which/that.'
    – Sssamy
    Apr 25, 2020 at 8:26
  • This may be an adverbial objective, but it is so peculiar in that it precedes a clause, not a noun. Normally adverbial objective 'all' comes with a noun after that: all the way, all the time, all day etc., but this adverbial objective 'all' precedes a clause. This is what makes it so unique. I wish I could see more of similar sentences with a clause, for the benefit of my knowledge.
    – Sssamy
    Apr 25, 2020 at 11:31
  • @Sssamy 1/ It seems that you can only speak of the modifier of an objective adverbial, those being in fact noun phrases and not adverbs. 2/ I did find this: “Live all you can.” (Henry James) and "Get all you can."; in the second case "all" is clearly an object pronoun (for "get"). In the first case, if out of context, it is ambiguous; you might consider it as an object pronoun with transitive "to live" (to live one's life well, live a happy life, …) or you might consider "all you can" as an adverbial and "all" is object pronoun, but for "can live" now.
    – LPH
    Apr 25, 2020 at 12:27
  • @Sssamy Whatever the soundness of the construction "all you can ever be influenced", it has to be acknowledged as an adverbial. I can't conceive anything else in this context that wouldn't be either an adverb of manner or of degree. "to be influenced all" is not correct".
    – LPH
    Apr 25, 2020 at 12:40
  • I just noticed that I kept saying 'adverbial objective.' It should have been 'adverbial object.' Sorry about the confusion it might have caused.
    – Sssamy
    Apr 26, 2020 at 1:08

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