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Athena21 Jun 30th, 2010 06:05 am

all vs everything
What is the rule on using all and everything, and what part of speech do they fall under?

For example, is it grammatically correct to use all or everything in this sentece:

He couldn't provide her with everything he needed.
He couldn't provide her with all he needed.


susan53 Jun 30th, 2010 01:34 pm

Re: all vs everything
These words are horribly complex, so don't worry if they confuse you. Looking at the grammar books always makes me think they've been forced into grammatical categories that they don't really fit. But anyway ...

Everything is usually classed as a pronoun - to be more precise a quantifying pronoun. Which puzzles me, as if by chance the language had decided to write it as two words - every thing - it would be a quantifier + noun. But there you go ...

Anyway, let's see it as a pronoun. That means it can fit into either subject or object position :
Everything is OK. / I didn't finish everything
(or, as in your example : He couldn't provide her with everything she needed.)

It's a pronoun because it's substituting for other understood items :

I had to clean the kitchen, make the beds, hoover the carpets and do the washing. but I only had half an hour and I didn't finish everything.

Everything substitutes for clean the kitchen, make the beds, hoover the carpets and do the washing

All on the other hand is a quantifier which can have various grammatical functions :

- Adverb : used to modify a preposition (all over, all round, all through etc) or adjective (all dirty, all right) etc : He painted all through the night / He got all dirty.
- Determiner : All the people cheered./ I don't like all his books
- Pronoun, as in your example : He couldn't provide her with all she needed

Even in the last example though, it makes more sense to me to think of all as really being a determiner with the noun phrase elided (or omitted) - ie :He couldn't provide her with all (the things) she needed.

Athena21 Jul 1st, 2010 06:31 pm

Re: all vs everything
Again, thank you so much for your help.

I have 2 more questions.

1) Do you know of a good English grammar book? I think it would help me greatly.

2) Another grammar question:

Is it ok to say: I heard a ringing phone.

I'm pretty sure it is ok but I can't remember the rule. I know that "a" implies I don't know what phone is ringing, I just hear a phone ringing. But is it ok to just say this sentence without adding anything else?

susan53 Jul 2nd, 2010 04:05 am

Re: all vs everything
I think what you mean is I heard a phone ringing - ie I heard a phone which was ringing.

Placing "ringing" in front of the noun like that turns it into an adjective - ie it's describing a quality of the phone so means I heard a phone which rings - which would be very weird as all phones do.
Compare eg : I have a new phone / I have a ringing phone. You might well say the first, but I can't imagine any context where you would say the second.

Notice here though that it's not a matter of grammar. Grammatically it's correct. Compare eg She has three screaming kids. ie She has three kids who scream. Same grammatical structure and perfectly OK.

But as I've said before, grammar is only a vehicle for meaning, and in this case the meaning which is expressed when ringing is placed in front of the noun is actually meaningless, whereas place screaming in front of kids and it does mean something.

Re the grammar book - depends what type you want. As a teacher, my own personal favourites are the Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, Svartvik series. (Several titles but I usually recommend A Communicative Grammar of English which is not the most complete adequate for most purposes. Used to be published by Longman, now I think it's become Pearson). It's rare that I can't find what I need there. Some of my trainee teachers find it difficult though, and one fell in love with the new Cambridge Grammar of English (Carter and McCarthy, CUP).

You might also like : The Grammar Book: An ESL/EFL Teacher's Course, Second Edition by Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman, heinle ELT

Or, at try the Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English, Biber et al

The one you choose needs to be "right" for you in the sense of starting from your current level of understanding of grammar and answering the type of questions you want to ask. The best way to choose is to go to a good ELT bookshop and have a look at them. Look up something which puzzles you, like the question you asked here, and see which one gives you the answer you find easiest to understand.

Athena21 Jul 2nd, 2010 04:33 am

Re: all vs everything

Thank you as always.

I know it sounds strange, but how about using it in these sentences:

I could not believe my ears when I heard a ringing phone instead of a busy signal.

Well, I was playing the third "Presto" movement of the Italian Concerto a few days ago and guess what...I heard a ringing phone (big surprise). And it kept on ringing after I had finished playing the movement. It WAS a phone ringing! It ended being my mom. Nice touch of reality, eh?

Sitting at work, planning out how many paycheques it would cost me to replace this important piece of equipment, I heard a ringing phone. As I picked up the phone, expecting to hear the voice of some future gym member asking questions about our prices, I was surprised when found myself talking to an unexpected angel.

But one would never just say: I heard a ringing phone, right? That's what you're trying to explain? It would be better to say: I heard the phone ring/ing.

susan53 Jul 2nd, 2010 06:41 am

Re: all vs everything
The first one - yes, possibly. Because what you heard wasn't actually the phone itself ringing, but the sound that comes over the wire to symbolise the phone ringing. So here, yes the sound of a ringing phone does contrast with a busy signal.

But in the other examples, to me it still doesn't make sense. What you are saying is that you heard a phone which was ringing - in other words you heard the sound which was coming from an actual phone. You're not trying to tell me that you heard a specific type of phone.

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