Submitted by goossun on December 31, 2004

all

Dictionaries say that the word, all -among other functions- is an adjective. I seem not to understand this. I was taught that to make sure whether a word is adjective one can make a sentence with [the specific] noun + to be + [the specific] adjective. i.e. “blue sky”, “sky is blue.” This formula seems to function in all the adjectives except “all.” Can anyone explain why the English dictionaries call “all” an adjective? I have looked up many examples, but it didn’t help.

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Adjectives are defined, in the field of linguistics, as words that modify a noun (i.e. they are part of the noun phrase). Determiners are a specific subset of adjectives and perform a specific function-- but it would be untrue to say that they modify verbs, other adjectives, etc. They certainly describe something about the *noun*.

Under this definition, by the way, articles (a, an, the) are also considered adjectives.

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I'd say that determiners and adjectives are 2 different categories. Adjectives can be declined: bluer, bluest. And determiners cannot: *aller, *allest. I don't know why a dictionary would say that "all" is an adjective. It isn't.

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In English, adjectives come in two flavours. There's modifiers (green, tall, friendly, ancient), which add information to the noun, and determiners (some, that, their, all, seven), which place limits on the noun.

Determiners can't be used outside their noun phrase, but are still adjectives. A test for them could be that they limit which objects out of a set you're talking about (or, in the case of 'all', limit the ones you're /not/ talking about).

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AFAIK there is no rule stating that an adjective must fit in the form of Noun - to be - Adj. Though the reverse may be true. That is all.

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I think "all" is an adjective like numbers are adjectives--it quantifies. In the sentence, "I would like three red balloons," both "red" and "three" are adjectives. "I like all balloons," then, uses "all" as an adjective to describe which balloons the speaker likes. It should be the same thing with "few," "some," and other words that quantify.

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I'll merely point out that I agree with Craig's comment. That is all I wanted to say.

:)

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Don't worry if it takes a while for comments to come. Patience is all.

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