Tag Archive - Use of “all”

All Is Well When All Are Accounted For

The word all, as a subject, may take either a singular or plural verb. It depends on the context. Just as with nouns like audience (“the audience is listening”), context determines the choice of verb.

When implying a plural noun, use a plural verb:

  • All were running down the road, frantic, as the tornado gained on them.
  • I notice all are present for the vote today.

When implying a singular noun, which might be called a collective abstraction or mass noun, use the singular verb:

  • All is well on the home front.
  • All I want is peace on earth.

Writers often mistakenly use the plural when intending a collective all. These are incorrect:

  • All we need are the results from the election [should be is].
  • All they wanted were food and clothing to get through the harsh winter [should be was].

I hope all that I’d hoped to impart to you is clear. Then all will be well with your world.