In Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL), Huddleston and Pullum talk about 'universal determinatives' (pp.374–378), 'both' and 'all.' They also talk about the 'distributive determiner' 'each' (pp.378–379).

On page 377, under the sub-heading 'Other functions,' they give examples of 'all' being used as a modifier and specify that it can modify PPs, AdjPs, AdvPs, and NPs. Here are some examples:

She did it [all by herself].

I'm [all wet].

Having flipped through pages that I think are relevant, I can't seem to find any mention of the following construction, which is strikingly similar:

They were all/both/each visiting their families.'

As this appears to fall within the VP, I would imagine that if there is no reference in the above-mentioned sections, discussion of these constructions should be located under Chapter 8 ('The clause: adjuncts'). However, I cannot find anything.

For those familiar with CGEL, could you describe what this construction is called? I assume that it is a type of predicative adjunct in the clause structure—perhaps depictive.

  • These are all examples of the phenomenon known as "Quantifier-Float" in syntax (though perhaps not in CGEL; I don't know). Note that All/both/each of them were visiting their families is also fine. Q-float moves some quantifiers, but not all (try this with every) from their canonical position as NP modifiers to preverbal adverb position. May 19, 2023 at 22:33
  • 2
    An adjunct but not predicative. In "They were all/both/each visiting their families", "all" is functioning as a quantificational adjunct.
    – BillJ
    May 20, 2023 at 10:07

1 Answer 1


9.2 Fusion of determiner and head (p 412)

Partitives (p 413)

    (c) Quantificational adjuncts (p 413)

Subsection (c) touches on the subject:

One use of fused-head partitives that merits separate mention here is that where they function as quantificational adjunct in clause structure:

[13] i Her parents both felt she had been exploited.
ii They had none of them intended to cause so much ill will.

The quantificational adjuncts serve to quantify the subject. Example [i] is thus equivalent to Both her parents felt she had been exploited and [ii] to None of them had intended to cause so much ill will. Universal all, both, and each can occur as implicit partitives, while the set of determinatives found in explicit partitives is considerably larger: these three together with existential some, any, none, cardinal numerals, multal many and much, paucal few, a few, and several. The implicit partitives can occur in preverbal position, as in [i]; explicit partitives are somewhat questionable in this position, strongly preferring post-auxiliary position. Compare ?Her parents both of them felt she had been exploited and Her parents had both of them felt she had been exploited.

  • These both sound exceedingly wrong to me (American English): They had none of them intended to cause so much ill will. Her parents had both of them felt she had been exploited. May 20, 2023 at 2:54
  • @TinfoilHat That's an interesting observation, which I think could be dealt with in a separate post. Note that CGEL doesn't specify the usage as peculiar to a certain dialect.
    – JK2
    May 20, 2023 at 3:11
  • 'Her parents/They both felt she had been exploited' sound totally normal to me (UK - NW); 'They had none/neither of them intended to cause so much ill will' sound dated/over-flowery. May 20, 2023 at 9:50
  • Is this from CGEL? It doesn't say so! May 20, 2023 at 11:50
  • @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. Of course, it's from CGEL.
    – JK2
    May 20, 2023 at 12:22

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