Unfortunately, there’s no way around it: the intricate rules of subject-verb agreement can be difficult. Whether you are a native speaker or someone learning English as a second language, subject-verb agreement is likely an area in which you may face some challenges. For example, words like “all” often leave people asking: should I say “all is” or “all are?”
“All are” is correct in most cases. If the word “all” is singular, referring to a single, unified group, you should say “all is.” When using “all” in plural form, you should say “all are.”
Though this rule can be fairly tricky, you should have no problem mastering subject-verb agreement with pronouns like “all” with some time and patience. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the subject “all” and how to pair this word with its appropriate verb.
Which Is Correct: “All Is” or “All Are?”
When using “all” in singular form, it’s correct to say “all is,” but when using “all” on its own, which is in plural form, you should say “all are.” An easy hack to remember: if you can replace the word with “it,” then the form is singular. If you can replace “all” with “they,” then it is plural.
Check out a few examples below to see if you are using the appropriate verb with this pronoun:
- All the cats are meowing at your door for food.
- When all the students are running to class, the hallways can feel dangerous.
- All our parents are getting older.
- All the milk is sour, so we need to throw it out.
- She said that all the rice is for sharing among needy families.
- Because we do chores together, all the money is shared for our allowance.
In the examples above, “cats,” “students,” and “parents” are all plural, countable nouns. Since they are clearly plural, you would say “all are.” In the final three examples, “all” works as a determiner for singular, uncountable nouns, meaning that it would be best to say “all is.”
“All Is” or “All Are” in Common Phrases
The old adage says that “practice makes perfect,” and the more you practice using specific words in context, the more likely you are to learn them successfully. Let’s look at some common uses of the word “all” and how to match them to their appropriate verb.
“All of Us Is” or “All of Us Are”
In this instance, there is little nuance. Because “us” is a plural pronoun, it’s always appropriate to say “all of us are.” For example, you could say, “All of us are going to attend the Christmas festival at the end of the year.”
Below are some common phrases using “all” where we can use “is” or “are” depending on whether “all” is replacing a singular or plural subject.
“All Is Welcome” or “All Are Welcome”
When “all” represents a single group, it’s appropriate to say “all is welcome.” However, it’s much more common to hear “all” in the plural form, meaning you are more likely to say, “all are welcome.”
- All the advice is welcome as I travel through this difficult time of my life.
- All the guests are welcome to bring a gift for the happy couple.
In the first example, “all” refers to “advice,” a singular, uncountable noun. In the second example, since “all” refers to the plural “guests,” you would say, “All the guests are welcome.”
“All Is Well” or “All Are Well”
When you are using the word “all” in reference to “everything in my life,” then it’s appropriate to say “all is well.” However, if “all” instead represents multiple, specific people or things, you should say “all are well.”
- All the family members are well after their long time battling the stomach virus.
- All is currently going well in my life.
However, it would be better to say “Everything is currently going well in my life” instead.
“Hope All Is Well” or “Hope All Are Well”
This phrase follows much the same rule as the previous. You should only say “I hope all is well” when using this phrase in reference to “all” that is occurring in your friend’s life. If you mean to say that you hope “all” the people in their family are doing well, you should use the plural sense of the verb.
- I hope all are well in your family!
- I hope all is going well with the online class you are taking.
“All Is Mine” or “All Are Mine”
In this instance, you are far more likely to hear the phrase “all are mine.” The only instance you might hear the phrase “all is mine” would occur when “all” represents an uncountable noun.
For instance, you would say, “all the kids are mine” at the playground, but when looking for bottled drinks afterward, you’d say, “all the water is mine.”
“All Is Right” or “All Are Right”
Generally speaking, you are more likely to hear “all are right,” but, once again, if “all” represents a larger, uncountable noun, you may say, “all is right.”
- All the students are right in attending the mandatory “back to school” seminar.
- All is right with the world.
As you can see, there’s a wide variety of ways we use “all is” or “all are,” and our choice always depends on the context of the sentence. To learn more about this word in context, check out our other article: “All is Correct” or “All are Correct.”
“All” Parts of Speech
We can use “all” as an adjective, adverb, noun, or pronoun, depending on where we place it within a sentence (source). Consider the examples below:
- Adjective: All men are created equal.
- Adverb: I have all mahogany furniture within my home.
- Noun: I gave my all on that test, and the scores reflected that effort.
- Pronoun: All of the students tried their hardest on the test.
As you can see, the word “all” is a bit of a chameleon, changing shape as needed to fit the requirements of the sentence it calls home.
However, for today’s lesson, we’re focusing on “all” as a pronoun or determiner before a noun and learning how to pair that subject with its appropriate verb. Pronouns are words we use to replace specific nouns within a sentence, while determiners specify something about a noun phrase.
You likely already associate the word “pronoun” with “she,” “he,” “it,” and “they,” but when we use it to replace a noun, we can consider “all” as a pronoun as well.
Still, before finding out this word’s proper subject-verb agreement, you must first identify whether the word “all” is plural or singular.
Is “All” Singular or Plural?
Just as the word “all” can function as different parts of speech, “all” can also be singular or plural, depending on how we use it within a sentence. To identify whether the word “all” is singular or plural, you must figure out what noun this pronoun stands in the place of.
When we use it to take the place of a countable noun, “all” is plural. Because most nouns in the English language are countable, we will most often use “all” with a plural verb.
Countable nouns, in simplest terms, are nouns that we can count. This means that we can consider most common, tangible nouns as countable nouns. Because the pronoun “all” references tangible, countable nouns, you can easily see that it references plural nouns.
When the word “all” functions as a determiner for one of these common nouns, it works with a plural verb.
“All” as a Determiner
A determiner plays a vital role in the English language. It clarifies which noun a speaker refers to within the sentence, making the overall context and message easier to understand.
When you use “all” as a determiner, you specify that you are referencing every noun available within that noun phrase rather than just one or two (source).
- All the animals at the barnyard are for sale.
- All the students ate their lunches outside to enjoy the beautiful weather.
- When all the kids were done with homework, they packed up their bags.
- All the desks were lined up neatly around the classroom.
- I hate when all my papers become scattered and disorganized.
In each of the above sentences, “all” functions as a determiner, pointing out each of the countable nouns and making it clear that every single noun is participating in the action.
Look at the same examples if you were to use “all” to replace the subjects rather than as a determiner:
- All are for sale.
- All ate their lunches outside to enjoy the beautiful weather.
- When all were done with homework, they packed up their bags.
- All were lined up neatly around the classroom.
- I hate when all become scattered and disorganized.
As you can see, while the sentences still technically make grammatical sense, the meaning becomes far less clear. By including the full subjects and using “all” as a determiner, it’s much easier to see that “all” is enhancing plural, countable nouns and that we should treat “all” as plural.
When “all” functions as a determiner for an uncountable noun, “all” becomes singular. While countable nouns are easy to understand, uncountable nouns can be trickier and take a deeper level of understanding to grasp fully. Read on to learn more about uncountable nouns.
As the name would indicate, uncountable nouns are nouns that are impossible to count. Grammatically, we consider these nouns as generally singular in American English, which means that when “all” is a determiner with an uncountable noun, we should treat “all” as singular.
Though the list of uncountable nouns is long and ever-growing, familiar uncountable nouns include words like “water,” “sand,” “music,” “anger,” and “news.” Look below to see a few examples of these uncountable nouns in a sentence.
- All the water is dirty and shouldn’t be used for drinking.
- I hate when all the sand from the beach seems to end up coming home with us.
- I enjoy all the music that our high school band plays.
- All her anger ends up directed towards the wrong people.
- All news is considered good news.
When “all” is a determiner for any of these nouns, we should consider “all” as singular.
The basic rules of subject-verb agreement state that a subject and verb must agree with one another in number. If a subject is singular, its verb must be as well. The only trick here is that, unlike singular nouns, singular verbs commonly end in “s” (source).
Look at a brief example below:
- The student loves English more than any other class.
- The students love English more than any other class.
Because the subject “student” references a single person, the writer should pair this subject with the singular verb “loves.” In a similar way, when the subject changes to become the plural “students,” the verb changes as well, turning from “loves” to “love.”
As we’ve previously discussed, countable nouns can be singular or plural, depending on how someone uses them. For example, if there is an “s” at the end of a countable noun, we consider it plural and pair it with a plural verb.
Uncountable nouns are almost always singular, meaning that you should pair them with singular verbs.
When determining whether subject-verb agreement within a sentence is correct or incorrect, you must look only at the subject and the verb. This means that you must ignore all distracting words or prepositional phrases that may occur in between.
- All the animals on the ranch the girl bought last week are busy eating right now.
Although this sentence is fairly long and meandering, there are only two words you need to examine: “all” and “are.” Because the word “all” as it appears here is plural, it is correct to say “all are.” This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
To learn more about how to properly match tricky nouns to their appropriate verb, check out this more thorough, in-depth article on the topic: “My Family Is or Are: Subject-Verb Agreement.”
“All” is both a fascinating word with a rich history and a vital one to our collective language. It increases clarity and has the power to function as almost every part of speech, all depending on how you apply it! With the word “all,” context is key.
Though you should typically say “all are,” there are instances where “all” is singular rather than plural. By looking at the greater context, you should be able to determine whether you should say “all is” or “all are.”