Submitted by tweyland • September 21, 2005
Is it regional to use “all of a sudden” versus “all the sudden?” The former sounds more correct to me.
June 1, 2006, 2:36pm
If someone uttering "all of *the* sudden" is all it takes to ruin your minute/hour/day, you have a blessed life. Colloquialisms make our language colorful and fascinating, in my opinion. As such I don't really think it's our job to be snobbish and accuse people of being uneducated if they speak with a phrase that you don't like.
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December 14, 2005, 2:52pm
as far as i can tell the oldest version of the phrase is "upon the soden" from 1558 which transformed to "of a sudayn" in 1596 which was further butchered to "all of a sudden" by 1681. i got that info from etymonline. "upon the soden" i think makes sense because i sounds sort of like "on the fly" which relatively makes sense. i have always said "all of the sudden" and recently got some flak for it. its an old idiom and is so far from its original form that i think its silly for prescriptive grammarians to attach themselves to one particular convoluted form when the others make just as much sense. and an idiom is just that- a peculiar phrase. how is someone going to tell a whole bunch of people the "correct" way to say something peculiarly.
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July 18, 2006, 1:25pm
Funny. I'm well educated, and grew up in Chicago as a child and then San Diego as a teen/young adult. I now live and work in Washington DC. I speak and write professionally for a living, and only after I was married last year at the age of 31, was I ever corrected by someone for saying "all the sudden" - by my wife!
She and I have had many discussions about this phrase, usually as a result of her frustration from hearing me say it. The bottom line is that it is an idiom. Idioms have established societal rules, but no grammatical rules. So, if people started saying "all the sudden" all of the sudden, then that would become the accepted idiom!
To those of you who get frustrated by this, I say: get over it.
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June 15, 2006, 9:12am
I agree with Izzy. Along with dialect, these little phrases make our language take on unique personalities and makes listening to people speak more interesting. I'm from the midwest and I have said "all of the sudden". However, I read almost daily. This might be shocking also, but I am educated. Snobish and accusing are very well selected words to describe the things being said here about a very common phrase.
I hope that you are acomplishing something of more value than ranting about the "poor language skills" of others.
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Suddenly Sorry (unregistered)
November 20, 2007, 9:30pm
I'm not sure which is more pompus, mentioning your education or assuming others are ignorant for using colloquialisms. Although, using genius as your screen name is probably even worse.
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September 23, 2005, 12:38pm
Use 'suddenly' it types faster.
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June 19, 2006, 12:36pm
I understand what has been said about 'all of the sudden,' and I see why it is gramatically incorrect. My question now is this: If all of the sudden can be replaced by the correct 'suddenly,' in almost all cases, wouldn't the same be true for 'all of a sudden'? What I am getting at is that 'All of the sudden', although slang, means the same thing as 'all of a sudden'. For example, take this sentence used with both examples.
All of the sudden, I heard a sound to my right.All of a sudden, I heard a sound to my right.Suddenly, I heard a sound to my right.They all mean the same thing, and the reader understands what is being implied in all three. If all of the sudden is improper in this, then all of a sudden would be as well. If 'suddenly' replaces 'all of the sudden' it would only make sense that it would replace 'all of a sudden' as well. Am I right?
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June 30, 2006, 2:28am
I'm with Ems: I have only heard "all the sudden" recently, maybe in the last ten years. I believe it's a matter of chronology, not region. And I assumed it came from the mouths of people who thought that's what they were hearing, and either they never read, or they just never noticed that you don't see it in print--you see "all of a sudden."
At least --I never, ever saw it in print until tonight, which sent me to Google, which sent me here. And where I saw it in print was--an online article in the Nation, by William Greider! I was bummed.
Bummed, because I'm like AndyM and others. "All the sudden" does feel to me like the old fingernails-and-chalkboard abuse. But, see, there's the problem: just as chalkboards have been replaced by whiteboards, language moves on. "All of a sudden" bears a distinctly archaic flavor, just like "all on a sudden," which you'll see in books from the 1830s. "All the sudden" makes no sense to me, and it sounds stupid, but... I'm being replaced.
It's the ongoing dilemma about descriptive and prescriptive dictionaries, and about standards. If a standard falls in the woods and nobody hears...?
On the other hand, if there were no standards...? It bugs me to hear "he graduated high school." WRONG! It should be "he graduated FROM high school." But the way my mother learned it, it should be "he WAS graduated from high school." (The school graduates you, you don't graduate the school.)
So she thought I was wrong, and I think the new way is wrong, and now we're into a whole different thread, but you get the point. All the sudden, we're into a whole new English.
November 14, 2005, 9:54am
Ugh--like nails on a chalkboard."All the sudden" is a mistake. It is a result of laziness; that is, people hear "all of a sudden" spoken, and it sounds like "all the sudden" so they assume that's what it is. These people, who, in my experience, live in the Midwest, apparently do not read much.
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July 24, 2006, 5:54pm
I must admit that I am one who often feels "fingernails on the chalkboard", having been raised, on the Philadelphia Main Line, by a mother who harped that the TV commercials were teaching us poor grammar. For example, she insisted that it should have been "Winston tastes good AS a cigarette should". Though both points are debatable, hearing "like a cigarette should" infuriated her, so much so that she switched to menthol cigarettes, before quitting.
I have more recent laments of my own, e.g., "as best he can", but that's for another thread.
However, WRT the use of "all... sudden", I am amazed to suddenly find, at the age of 56, that I apparently learned it the "wrong" way. Being well educated, having traveled extensively among many in the "effete corps of impudent snobs" throughout North and Central America, Europe, the Pacific region and the West Indies, I have to agree with Brandy, Travis, Izzy, Melissa, Candace and Dan.
IMHO, neither phrase seems to make proper grammatical sense, except as an idiom and I'll continue to use the one I grew up with. If you have a problem with that, take it up with Sir Winston Churchill. This is the sort of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put. (or words to that effect)
And who in the hell is AndyS to call it laziness when someone thinks they heard it differently than he (thinks he) did? How does it require greater effort to hear (or mishear) an utterance one way vs another? One hears what one hears. Full stop. As for reading, I prefer non-fiction, hence my lack of familiarity with the "proper" phrase, in spite of my Main Line upbringing. Its use is much more prevalent in fiction.
Zara, you and your husband deserve each other, nevertheless, you have my condolences. Oh, and I doubt that your wealthy acquaintances are "completely" uneducated, although it's quite funny that you should arrive at that conclusion on this basis.
For the pedantic prescriptives reading this: WRT= with regard to, IMHO= in my humble opinion
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September 27, 2005, 2:24pm
"All of the sudden" and "all the sudden" are not correct phrases. They are slang. There is not a written situation where "suddenly" will not work better and more correctly in their place.
June 16, 2006, 5:00pm
I have heard people saying, "all the sudden" for the past five years or so. At first, I thought I must have misunderstood. But that is indeed what people are saying. I travel considerably, and this is not a regional malady. It is everywhere! In fact, last night I heard Matt Lauer of NBC say, "all the sudden" three different times during an interview he was conducting. I could not believe my ears. The term is "all of a sudden."
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March 7, 2007, 8:47pm
The bottom line: Both "All of a sudden" and "All of the sudden" are colloquialisms. The phrase is further confounding becase "sudden" is not a noun, and as we know, a/the being the indefinite/definite artlcle, respectively, precede nouns. "Suddenness" is a noun. Grammatically, both phrases are incorrect. Most colloquialisms are just that: agrammatical. This is why we use them. Gonna is a good example. I'm from Idaho, which, contrary to popular belief is not in the midwest, and have said "All of the sudden" my whole life. "All of suddenness" is what I'm going to start saying. Just kidding.
Stewie Griffin (unregistered)
November 26, 2007, 7:45am
And finally, anyone who uses the terms "irregardless," "a whole nother," or "all of the sudden" shall be sent to a work camp.
I heard this last night on Family Guy, which prompted me to search "all of the sudden." I didn't understand what was wrong with it. Upon finding this site and reading some comments, I'm okay with both "a" and "the" forms. I consider myself very educated -- contrary to what some people might say because I use "the." I will continue to use the "the" form because that's the only thing I've ever heard.
I live in Minnesota -- one of the most educated states in America -- and everyone uses the "the" form.
Suck it, you arrogant "a" users!
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April 16, 2007, 10:39pm
all the sudden i read this and realized it was dumb.
February 11, 2006, 7:03pm
I think some of you need to learn to write other words correctly before you begin to criticize others usage of idioms.
December 3, 2006, 8:25am
I know this thread is old but I feel compelled to add a comment, as I'm sure others will happen upon this site -- and this thread -- just as I did.
I'm 50 years old and grew up in the Chicago area. I am of above average intelligence, at least. I have always said and heard "all of the sudden". It was the few times I heard "all of a sudden" that caused me to Google the prhases and consequently, end up here.
What I am most amazed at is the absolute certainty with which some of the people who have contributed to this thread speak on the subject. Just because you believe it to be one way or the other ("a" vs. "the") does not make it so. I found myself saying "Who are these people that they are such an authority on the matter. As I kept reading, it became apparent that they are only an authority in their own mind.
Kudos to Dan, who was right on target with his take on the matter, when he said, "The bottom line is that it is an idiom. Idioms have established societal rules, but no grammatical rules. So, if people started saying "all the sudden" all of the sudden, then that would become the accepted idiom!"
November 23, 2007, 7:50pm
Someone mentioned that "the oldest version of the phrase is 'upon the soden' from 1558..." This argument represents a more scientific approach, evidence of tangible roots that no one has disputed.
The phrases "on the double" and "on the fly" seem related to the 1588 version and semantically related in modern usage to "all the sudden."
He left all the sudden.?He left all of a/the sudden.*He left all of a/the double.*He left all of a/the fly.
?He left on the sudden [side of time/space continuum], without notice.
He left on the double.He left on the fly.He was making money on the sly.
That "all" exists instead of "on/upon" might be to amplify suddenness in the same way as "he got up all sudden-like", a phrase that sounds colloquial and might invoke the wrath of prescriptivists.
At least, that's what I fink.
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May 16, 2007, 7:41pm
I, like Dave, am also from Philadelphia's Main Line. I have a Ph.D., so I am somewhat educated. I have never said "all of a sudden." It's always been "all of the sudden for me," though "all the sudden works for me, too.
If I were to have to say the phrase "all of a sudden," all of the sudden, I would begin to puke. I am sure that there are officers on Guantanamo who could pound the phrase into me over time, while keeping a bag over my head and dogs barking at me. Some potential candidates for that prison guard role do seem to be on this thread.
June 1, 2007, 2:48pm
I have a co-worker who says "all the suddenly". How does that rate in your discussion?
October 16, 2007, 5:41pm
I'm very well read, yet have always said "all of the sudden". For some reason the "a" version always sounded vulgar to me. While it's clear to me now that usage dictates that "all of a sudden" is the standard, what's more telling is that there is NO grammatical basis for this rule. Neither is grammatically legitimate - only "suddenly" fits the bill in that regard.
April 27, 2006, 11:09am
Andy...I couldn't agree with you more! This bugs the heck out of me when I hear people say "all the sudden" and I hear it a lot in a community of wealthy but completely uneducated folks! The worst part is, when I used the phrase correctly, one of these illiterate guys had the nerve to try and correct me! That was the straw that broke the camel's back! I let it be known loud and clear that ALL THE SUDDEN is a phrase used by those who have never picked up a book to understand how the idiom is actually said. Eeeeek! These little things really get under my skin. I had a discussion with my hubby about it the other day and it seems I'm not alone on feeling this way! :)
September 26, 2005, 5:23pm
Unless you are writing dialogue or colloquial English, use 'suddenly'.
October 21, 2010, 2:20am
Slobby: what's your point? That Kipling meddled with the idiom merely illustrates its malleability. I'm not a fan of "all the sudden." I never said I was. It ain't entirely grammatical, but if it's a regional idiom leave it alone, it does no real harm. English won't die from diversity.
November 10, 2007, 12:48am
All of a sudden, "all the sudden" seems so awful. But, all of the sudden insanity over what is proper suddenly seems even worse.
September 18, 2007, 10:12am
I disagree that the phrases being discussed are idioms. There are no metaphoric meanings to these phrases which would classify them as idioms.
I do agree that they are all both colloquial and evolutionary language developments.
Putting these three exprssions in that light, would have us look at the grammatical structure. "All the sudden" does not add up to correct structure. The other two do but their usage depends on your version of the English language.
Having said all of this, we still communicate our thoughts with all three expressions. What bothers me is that no one will agree that there is a correct view. Would we have this discussion if it were that we were discussing a mathematics problem where 1+1=<3 and not 2?
It is comfortable to be relaxed and informal in our dialogue and speech but what we say and how we say it should not detract from the importance of what we are saying. That is what "all the sudden" does. If an expression can distract someone's focus on what we are saying or how they view us as individuals or authorities, it should matter. Presidential hopefuls have fallen by the wayside for such minor blunders of grammar.
We have the right to say whichever expression we want but we will be judged by what we say and how we say it.
In conclusion, these expressions are not idioms and one of them is grammatically incorrect. Pick your poison.
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May 30, 2006, 10:05am
I think it would be interesting to figure out in just how many regions people actually use the phrase "all the sudden." AndyS has pinpointed them as being in the Midwest. Joe says the phrase is used by Northerners in the UK. Dave Rattigan says it is mainly heard in "southern states," specifying Mississippi.
I come from Acadiana, or "Cajun Country," (located in Central Coastal Louisiana) and also use this phrase colloquially. While many outsiders may argue that this region is included under the category "southern states," the Cajun dialect and the dialects spoken by those with the Southern accent/drawl are so different that their speakers make fun of each other. Furthermore, the person who pointed out that I was incorrect in saying "all the sudden," is actually from the New Orleans area, which is also in the South, but once again, has its own dialect.
In short, we have pinpointed the Midwest, the Northern UK, Mississippi, and Acadiana. I would be interested to know what other regions/dialects in the English-speaking world commonly use the colloquial phrase "all the sudden."
March 2, 2007, 11:48am
Regardless of which phrase you use, you will be understood.
If you want to be absolutely correct, use "suddenly." Otherwise, let it go.
March 4, 2007, 9:53pm
I am among those who have never heard of "all the sudden" until now (I always say "all of a sudden") but to be honest, I sort of like "all the sudden." I couldn't really tell you why, but it sound archaic and fanciful to me. At any rate, if we're to compare the grammatical logic of these two phrases, neither of them really stack up much at all, but I would put my vote on "all the sudden" as it looks to me like it falls into the [all the + comparative/superlative] construction. All the best, all the same, all the bigger, etc. Well, maybe not, since "sudden" is just an adjective as far as I can tell, not a comparative or a superlative. Thoughts?
April 26, 2011, 11:06pm
I actually posted on this discussion thread back in 2007 with statistics showing that the phrase "all of a sudden" clearly dominates in the number of hits on Google compared to "all of the sudden", but a resounding 3:1 ratio.
Checking back four years later, a Google search reveals:
"All of the sudden" - 47 million hits"All of a sudden" - 20.4 million hits"All the sudden" - 7 million hits
Within the short period of just a few years, it appears (based on this one data point) common usage of the phrase has decisively switched to the other side! That does not answer the question of whether one version is "correct" or not, but it certainly shows usage of "all of the sudden" is widespread...and trending towards dominant. It would be interesting if anyone did some studies on colloquial phrases, similar to how Rick Aschmann did some really interesting studies and maps on American English Dialects (look it up, it's worth checking out).
As for me, I have always used "all of the sudden" for all my 40 years in various states; whenever I hear "all of a sudden", it sounds extremely odd, similar to whenever I hear someone speak a double-negative (e.g. "I don't have no money"). Just the way I've always heard and spoke the phrase since I was a wee lad.
November 14, 2007, 12:10am
Finally I have found others who also have been driven crazy by what I thought was a new phenomenon in the land. All my life I have said "All of a sudden" and for a while now I hear "All the sudden" as though it was always thus. I thought I was going nuts. I feel better knowing there are others who say it "my way". This thread has really been fun and interesting to read and expand my little world. Thanks everyone. But I will always only consider All of a sudden "the right one".
November 18, 2007, 5:43pm
There is nothing more pompous than mentioning your "education" in a response here, especially when "SUDDENLY" is the only correct form.
"All the sudden" and "all of a sudden" are equally ignorant.
November 21, 2007, 8:16am
Isn't it amusing to hear the things that push people's buttons? I'm 50 and from South Louisiana (in TX for the last 20 years) and for my entire life I have only heard, read, and said "all of a sudden." Inexplicably, over the last few months I'm hearing "all the sudden" exclusively. Like another poster, at first I thought I was mis-hearing it, but the final straw was a newscaster this morning who clearly said "all the sudden," prompting me to find this site. I loved all the comments, and particularly relate to StewDog, Kirby, Matthew (thanks for the statistics), and Finally. With age comes--if not wisdom, at least tolerance. A few years ago I would have indignantly ranted in support of "all of a sudden," but now I will just join with StewDog and Candace and accept that just because one has heard it one way all his life, and will believe his way is the correct one, it's not worth the effort to try to change others' convictions. After reading all the posts, maybe now I won't grit my teeth so hard now when I hear "all the sudden."
May 22, 2007, 2:44pm
I have lived in Ohio, then Texas, then Colorado, then California. And, as far as I can remember, I have always heard and used the phrase "All of the sudden". The phrase "all of a sudden" simply sounds "wrong" to me -- in the same way some people say "aunt" while pronouncing the "u", or say "PEE-can" instead of "peh-CAHN".
Interesting experiment -- I checked on Google, and found:
"All of a sudden" - 2.5 million hits"All of the sudden" - 750,000 hits."All the sudden" - 340,000 hits.
Under Google News, there are 6900, 660, and 350 hits respectively.
And on Blogsearch, there are 350,000, 39,000 and 17,000 hits respectively.
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May 5, 2008, 2:36am
"All of the sudden" is simply a corruption of a familiar idiom. There is absolutely no value in lending it legitimacy. No one cares if you heard it in Minnesota; there's nowhere you could have heard it which makes it anything more than this, and thinking so isn't a "conviction" or something to stick up for, it's a misconception.
Now "all of a sudden" is at least established, and there's nothing ignorant about its use; I can't believe anyone would assume the speaker is ignorant for using a well-established colloquial phrase *correctly*.
December 31, 2010, 4:14am
I just stumbled upon this thread, and find it hilarious! I love grammar and our wonderful, fluid language, and I admit that I, too, cringe at obvious gaffes such as "lie" and "lay". Those two words are so misused even by educated people that I've given up. Compared to this and other errors such as "I've got to...", "irregardless", and the painful "bring" and "take" dilemma, I find the "all of a/the sudden" argument amusing. Not silly, mind you; it's always refreshing to find English speakers who care enough to defend the language.However, some of you are just plain nasty! Personal attacks do not attest to the attacker's intelligence or class. If it's about "winning" something, play tennis or watch football!
February 11, 2007, 4:39pm
It's simply All of a Sudden. That is just how it is. Kind of like to an educated person, irregardless is an incorrect term.
February 15, 2007, 3:38am
I've never heard it, but I am in the States only few weeks a year on average. It's an idiom, and sounds quaint to me. I can't understand anyone getting upset about it when there are real abominations out there, like "I could care less." Language changes, and this particular change doesn't distort the meaning, strictly speaking is no less correct than "all of a sudden", and has the distinct advantage of being one word shorter, providing economy of speech with color. I may start using it myself!
October 17, 2010, 10:22pm
All of you idiots who think 'all the sudden' is correct, or should be correct, haven't read many books - or you have zero understanding of the English language. You can't just string together a bunch of words and assume people know what you're trying to say.Are you the same group of people who say, "where you at?" and think it's correct?
October 18, 2010, 9:23am
The OED says "all of a sudden" first appeared in 1681. This is 200 years before the sub-par author and poet, Kipling, was born. Try again, greed.
October 31, 2007, 8:18pm
Saying it "makes no sense" has nothing to do with it. Presumably it's a phrase that is understood and that goes unremarked by many English speakers. Therefore, it is a normal grammatical usage for those speakers. It's a slight variation. But variation does not equal bad, or ungrammatical, or indeed anything but variation.
What Jim should say in his third sentence is "Just because people use it colloquially doesn't make it part of standard written English."
When Jim says that "sudden" is the action in "all of a sudden", what does he mean? The only way it's different from "all of the sudden" is that the former has the determiner "a" and the latter has the determiner "the". In both cases they function as modifiers. With either one you need a clause in order to have a sentence.
March 2, 2007, 6:55pm
Ghoti, regarding "...when there are real abominations out there, like 'I could care less.'"
That particular expression never bothered me at all. I've even said it on occasion. I've always understood it to be INTENTIONALLY stating the opposite of "I couldn't care less", in a sardonic manner. It isn't bad grammar. It's just SARCASM.
March 12, 2007, 6:22pm
"They can precede participles: 'We will all sing when *the dancing* begins.'"
"dancing" is not a participle, but a gerund; thus, "the" still describes a noun.
Also,"They can precede adjectives: "which do you want, sour or sweet?" "I'll take *the sour*""
I may be wrong, but I would consider that an incorrect statement. As in, it should properly be "I'll take the sour one," and "the" would still be describing a noun.
November 21, 2009, 6:03pm
I am a little surprised that it has never occurred to me to question the phrase "all of a sudden" before. What if it was only part of a sudden? I think I'd like an event to happen at half of a sudden.In my opinion, if you insist on using the phrase, then "all of the sudden" and "all of a sudden" are equally correct. However, "all the sudden" or "all a sudden" just sound wrong. For those who are insistent about the correct usage, according to the rant I found while checking it out, "all of a sudden" is the correct term, and it's not supposed to make sense if you analyze it.
As for "reveal," there are some small circumstances where it is used as a noun, as porsche pointed out, but it's pretty much never, in normal usage, a substitute for revelation. Sarah Palin is not going to have a reveal for us, she's going to have a revelation for us.
P.S. I know it's a bit late to respond but...too funny wrote: "Well, are you being ironic there with your misuse of the apostrophe in 'his I’s'. It's plural, not possessive."I really, really hate it when people who are wrong "correct" people who are not. For example, when pluralizing a letter, using an apostrophe is the correct format. Just to rub salt in the wound, you also should put periods within quotation marks, never outside of them. Finally, I know this particular rule is obscure, but when you ask a question, you place a question mark at the end of the sentence.
March 12, 2007, 6:25pm
Regarding "all of a sudden" vs. "all the sudden"..
If you say "all the sudden", doesn't it sound like you're referring to a specific sudden?"All of THE sudden- the sudden from two minutes ago."(a ridiculous sentence, but hopefully you know what I mean).Seeing as you don't usually go around referring to suddens, shouldn't you say "all of a sudden"?
December 20, 2010, 10:20pm
I grew up in south-central Illinois with parents originally from farming families. I only knew of "all the sudden" until I saw "all of a sudden" in print, which looked odd to me. Yes, if I were drafting a formal document I would use "suddenly," but I don't see any point in harping over this detail in speech.
Also, I grew up reading quite a bit, despite coming from a blue-collar town in the dreaded Midwest. Many of you on this board really need to tone down your judgment. Regional dialect and colloquialisms are a delight if you can put down your snob shield and breathe them in. Relax. You don't have to join. Just observe and appreciate that not everyone talks just like you.
December 20, 2010, 11:05pm
Just because it's regional, doesn't mean it's OK. I've heard a lot of people say, "I would of..." instead of, "I would have..." - true, it might be regional thing, but I still like to know the CORRECT way of saying things so I don't sound like a moron.As a well read (allegedly) individual, you surely can appreciate the fact that authors actually use editors to fix their regional dialect issues, so their poor English isn't passed along.
July 1, 2006, 2:14pm
I think that "all the sudden" is, like "irregardless", a splice error ("all the time" + "all of a sudden")
December 21, 2010, 12:38am
Slobby, 10 to 1, you also PRONOUNCE "would of" and "would've" exactly the same. "Woulda" gets its own star!
What you are really worried about is orthography, when "would've" is the correct form. "Would of" needs to be fixed by an editor for formal writing. I agree that these mistakes need to be corrected for academic/professional writing.
Though I never claimed to be well read, Slobby, I must caution you to be more cautious with your own orthography.
Case in point: "well read (allegedly) individual"
You need to hyphenate WELL-READ because it precedes a noun (individual). If the combination does not precede a noun, no hyphen.
I don't want you to look like a moron.
December 21, 2010, 6:03pm
I might pronounce it 'would've,' but I would never write 'would of.' You grew up saying, 'all the sudden,' so chances are, you would write, 'all the sudden.' My point with 'would of' is that people today are writing what they hear.
'All the sudden' is wrong, I don't care how low-rent you are.
December 21, 2010, 9:00pm
December 5, 2006, 9:13pm
I am with all of the correct people. Idioms are idioms, are idioms. "Know what I mean?", to coin the phrase of a great scholar, (Ernest).
Let's just have fun with language and communication.
July 16, 2008, 4:43pm
"All of a sudden" adds up better in my mind, and fits well within the pattern of an accepted (if colloquial) grammmatical construction in english. The root phrase "of a sudden" can be used without the modifier "all". The word "all", when added, serves to intensify or emphasize the suddenness. Other examples include "of a piece" "of a tremble". The "of a" seems to turn nouns into adjectives and adjectives into adverbs, just as the suffix -ly would. (Or the prefix a- as in "atremble", which lead me to wonder whether perhaps the "of a ___" construction led to the a- prefix, or perhaps vice versa).
I conjecture that much of the colloquialness of the phrase "all of a sudden" derives from the word "all" serving the (nonliteral) intensifying function, while most of the antiquatedness (and some of the colloquialness) of the phrase lies in the construction "of a ______" being used as a compound adverb, so to speak. (Didn't Shakespeare use the "of a ___" construction, even "of a sudden", admittedly in what might even then have been colloquial usage? Anybody know?)
Whether any of the three versions of the "sudden" phrase "make logical sense" a priori is a largely subjective question, the only possible answers to which are fairly arbitrary. But the phrases don't exist in a void; they exist in the context of the history of language at its current stage of evolution. The fact that "all of a sudden" has been much more common is what determines the variants to be variants.
Therefore, the phrase "all the sudden" is (rightly) going to sound uneducated (or at best lazy) to many people, primarily because it sounds as if what the speaker/writer really meant (but failed to say due to ignorance or laziness) was "all of the sudden". To a lesser degree, the same is true of the use of "all of the sudden", which to many hearers will seem simply a mutation of what they consider the correct "all of a sudden". Ironically, the reverse is also true, so you risk the chalkboard-grating either way.
I should disclose that I grew up hearing both "all of a sudden" and "all of the sudden", but I now use "of a" exclusively and feel that "of the" sounds a bit wrong. Actually, I may have used "of the" when I younger (I can't remember with certainty, but it seems to roll of my tongue too easily not to have been practiced). I was born in north Texas in the mid 1970s and moved to north Arkansas in the early 1980s.
By the way, "of a sudden" (without the "all") would equate to "suddenly". "All of a sudden" is more approximate to "very suddenly". It is more emphatic. No two words or phrases connote exactly the same meaning, thus every word or phrase has its place.
January 5, 2010, 8:03pm
Meg, I agree.
My solution is simply to obviate the issue by not using such a banal expression when a perfectly satisfactory adverb "suddenly" already exists. I occasionally use "all of ___ sudden" in speech I suppose, but never in writing. That's probably why the issue never occurred to me until now, when I noticed it somewhere else in writing.
What is also funny is how this thread has become a general place to complain about common grammar errors.
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September 21, 2005, 6:20pm
Yes, "all of a sudden" is the usual form.http://linkwithreality.com/blog/blog/archives/2...
September 22, 2005, 6:06am
"All of a sudden" is worldwide, where "all of the sudden" is mainly heard in the southern states. Or at least the only person I've ever heard it from is a friend from Mississippi.
July 29, 2010, 12:00pm
I never heard "all the sudden" until I started watching the Soaps and I could not believe my ears--lately, I've heard it used by major news anchors. I think the deterioration of our language in the past 20 years is horrible. Worse than the nitwits who say, "All the sudden," are those who spice every other word with "like." For example, "LIKE, on Tuesday I went to the store, and LIKE I met my friends who LIKE wanted to go to the movies and LIKE we bought popcorn and LIKE threw up, it was so, LIKE salty." Like, YUCK!
June 26, 2011, 9:53am
I just googled the first two, "all of a sudden" and "all of the sudden". I got 36 million for both of them. You should note, however, that the first page of results for "all of the sudden" are websites discussing why "all of the sudden" is wrong. So, maybe the reason "all of the sudden" has risen in google popularity is simply that it is being more widely criticized. Of course, I didn't check through all 36 million results!
March 18, 2012, 9:33am
I also realize I meant to write "...non-prescriptivist leanings..." as well. I should really proofread more- especially posting in a grammar forum!
Kenney G (unregistered)
June 1, 2008, 10:58pm
I live in Florida and am 25. I mention my age because I realize that it, as well as my region, may have weight the issue. I have always heard and said "All of the sudden." It is blatantly obvious to me that it absolutely doesn't matter which version of this you think is correct because a significant number of people say all three of them. It's not just one person butchering something that everyone else says. Millions and millions of people say all three. So get your dictionaries out of your asses if you have them there.
It's evolved from "upon the sudden" or whatever into different manifestations over time. Big deal. Stick to you guns, whatever, but this is a much bigger phenomenon than anyone's personal opinion on the subject.
Anyways, I don't like "all of a sudden" of "all the sudden" personally as much because they sound, for some reason, more hollow to me.
I guess it's sort of like the phantom "-t-" that is placed in some phrases in French. It makes for a more concrete sound .
Argue if you want but it just depends on if the person you are talking to says the same thing. If they do, you're right.
June 2, 2008, 5:46pm
You are right that I externalized my opinion but it was just matter-of-fact-ly. So poop on you. Excuse the idiom. It is my understanding like I said that no one's version is invalid or uneducated. I wasn't criticizing anyone but those who state clearly that they think others are stupid for saying something other than what they are used to. I did not say anyone was stupid, uneducated or incorrect.
And there are not BILLIONS of people that speak English.
Roughly a bit over a billion people speak English, with about 400 million as a first language. Someone I believe pointed out earlier about how in China people say "all of the sudden".
You may be right in what you said about regionalisms.
September 26, 2005, 1:39pm
"all the sudden" is used by Northerners in the Uk. they ofen miss word such as "the" in sentences. the french do the same missing parts of words out. this helps them run together in a sentence and is just easier to say. laziness is the key!
December 31, 2008, 7:15pm
I enjoy the commentaries! I am from Wisconsin and believe that I have used "all of the sudden" subconsciously and likely found it normal to say based on my environment. Though I love to read and write, today is my first instance of examining the difference between "all of a sudden" and "all of the sudden." I guess that "all of a sudden" sounds more literary to me. But certainly, for purposes of conversation, either form is effective.
June 16, 2008, 5:43pm
Really fun, reading all these posts! More data for the thread - I'm from South Carolina and have always spoke & heard "all of a sudden." I looked this up because my husband's family (also from South Carolina) uses "all of the sudden" or "all the sudden;" and instead of accusing them of stupidity (yet again), I thought I'd research a little bit. I think I agree with many of you who have said you'll keep saying it your way, & just be a tad more forgiving of those who say it differently. It seems as if both phrases could be defined as colloquialisms; however, I'm interested to know which one came into existence first.
By the way: I say "PEEE-can," but only because saying "pe-CAHN" can get you seriously injured 'round these parts.
October 19, 2010, 10:01am
Hmm. Just to be contrary, I'm going to start saying, "all at a sudden", as in several things happening at one moment, all at once. How's that for nails on a chalkboard? lol
August 20, 2007, 9:28pm
Yes, the only thing worse than "all the sudden" is "all the suddenly". But then that's just silly. I can't STAND "all the sudden". It's disgusting.
P Hat (unregistered)
June 17, 2008, 11:40am
"Who are you kidding? You don't like them only because they're not what YOU normally say. They don't sound quite right to you because they're not the particular idiom that you've internalized. You're as guilty of extending your personal opinion to everyone else as those you criticize."-->please re-read Kenney G's post
"And while we're at it, if millions of people say "all of the sudden" or "all the sudden", that's really not the point. BILLIONS of people say "all of a sudden"."-->where are you getting these fantabulous statistics? Did someone conduct a survey that you are citing? Or did these numbers come magically from the depths of your hindquarters?
"Compare this to y'all, or howdy, from the southern USA, or youse guys from the northeast. Millions of people say them, but they're dialectical. They're not wrong, but they're definitely regional. I can't imagine, say, the Pope using them."-->Newsflash, the Pope isn't a native English speaker. Plus, thank you for pointing out what is dialectical and what is standard because without your wisdom and authority, the rest of us would be in the dark forever..
March 8, 2007, 9:54pm
I beg to differ: articles can more than only nouns...
They can precede adjectives: "which do you want, sour or sweet?" "I'll take *the sour*"
They can precede participles: "We will all sing when *the dancing* begins."
At any rate, "all of a sudden" and "all of the sudden" (unlike "all the sudden") are syntagmatically identical. The paradigmatic difference between the two is probably representative of variation in language ideology. Why some speakers would choose the definite article while others would choose the indefinite is a neat question.
January 30, 2008, 9:29pm
All of a sudden, I think everyone here has way too much time on their hands!
September 24, 2008, 9:37pm
It mustn't be anything. It is a phrase that started out as one thing (I've seen "upon the soden" flying about some of these posts), and has gradually changed to something else.
As far as these phrases go, we are in the middle of what you might call a "sudden" linguistic evolution. People hear things differently (prescriptivists, you can read that as "incorrectly" if it makes you feel better), and the phrase gets passed on to the next generation. Then the slang or colloquial phrase either dies out or becomes the new standard. In 50 years, people may be arguing that it's really "all the sudden" as opposed to some other new phrase cooked up by those lazy, uneducated rednecks (of which I am one).
It happens all of the time. Or is that "all of a time"?
November 25, 2009, 10:00am
I gathered some statistics to help elucidate some of the claims being made. I searched for occurrences of the three idioms in the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), the British National Corpus (BNC), and a 3.5-million-word collection of student essays from several states (essays).
"All of a sudden" occurs 5,225 times in COCA, 393 times in BNC, and 45 times in essays. "All of the sudden" occurs 204 times in COCA, never in BNC, and 10 times in essays. "All the sudden" occurs 56 times in COCA, never in BNC, and once in essays. Apparently, "all (of) the sudden" is American English, not British.
COCA tells the date of each citation. "All the sudden" was not found in any of its texts dated 1990-1992, and only once in 1993. It peaked at ten instances in 2007. This is probably too small a sample to be definitive, but it suggests that "all the sudden" is a fairly new expression. (Of course, I've excluded phrases like "Why all the sudden interest?" from my search. We're only looking at synonyms for "suddenly".)
March 14, 2007, 11:54am
I'm a 7th grade English teacher outside of Rochester, NY. I'm on this site because about half of my students write "all of the sudden" or "all the sudden," and it seemed wrong to me. Many in our area--kids and adults--use these alternate versions in conversation as well. I know I recently heard a network news anchor or reporter use "all the sudden," as well. As I say, it doesn't seem correct, but as many others have pointed out here, the language changes because people change it. I've given up on teaching that "a lot" is two words, and I presume "alot" will be in the dictionary before I'm through (if it isn't already).
June 29, 2009, 6:15pm
Daniel said, "I'm shocked at how, in a forum on proper usage of idiom, so many people misspell words and make embarrassing grammatical errors... refused to capitalize his I's. I don't mind that people write in such a way on forums generally, but on a grammar website I suppose I just expect a bit more."
Well, are you being ironic there with your misuse of the apostrophe in "his I's". It's plural, not possessive.
December 21, 2010, 7:39pm
Please, Slobby, leave personal attacks out of it, especially when they are directed in the form of a run-on sentence. (Proofread your parting shot regarding my low-rent status: your comma should be replaced by a period or at least a semi-colon.)
In fact, take a second look at your initial volley: "Just because it's regional, doesn't mean it's OK." In addition to being a sentence fragment (using a dependent clause as a subject), you've diced it up even more by plugging in a comma before the verb. Ouch! You're writing just like you're speaking.
I agree. People frequently write language in the same way that they hear and speak it. I also agree that they often need editors to help clean up the results.
Can we concur on the points that you've illustrated with your own writing and let it rest? I really just came here to find out the distinctions between the various expressions that mean "suddenly," not to engage in class warfare.
November 19, 2010, 4:07am
Apparently "of a sudden" comes out of Shakespeare. The phrase "all of a sudden" is a derivative of that. "Of a sudden" is a preposition, "a sudden" referring to a nondefinite noun. "The sudden" is a definite noun, thus changing the implications of the phrase. If one means to say "All of the sudden," it is only grammatically correct to say "All the sudden" if "sudden" is somehow a plural noun. Which it is not.
"Sudden" refers to a sense of time. The time is "a sudden." Did the action take place over the course of "all of a day" or "all of a sudden?" Why, it happened all of a sudden!
It is still an idiom, but "all of a sudden" is proper.
May 20, 2008, 10:37am
Let's get something straight here: language norms always reflect language usage, not the other way around; this means they are always changing. Even established, more-or-less logical grammatical forms change, albeit at a glacial pace. In the case of idioms such as this, which make no real sense in the first place, the rules can change faster.
That being said, the current STANDARD (i.e. non-dialectic) usage in this case in most of the English-speaking world is indeed 'all of a sudden'; however, I have enough respect for the massive diversity of the English language to argue against the position that it is categorically uneducated to say 'the' instead of 'a'.
There is an undercurrent of cultural stratification at work here that is really interesting, especially in the American context, where concepts of social equality--however mythical--hold a lot of water. Where I live (France), the language is so stratified that one can identify lesser-educated people in a few sentences, and the social and economic consequences of this stratification are severe...to the point that you cannot perform basic social functions (opening a bank account, ending a property lease, getting certain jobs, etc.) without a good working knowledge of a rather snotty level of french. This is accepted as part of life here; however, in America this isn't SUPPOSED to exist...but it does, and weird little idiomatic things like this are living traces of it. If enough people THINK 'all of the sudden' is redneck, then it is, at least at the functional level.
November 22, 2007, 10:55am
I couldn't disagree more with with the idea that "all the sudden" is a result of laziness. I found the use of this adjective so inappropriate that I had to write something. We have to take into account the context of the speaker abnd measure how important would be to say "all of a sudden". We cannot categorically deny the expression "all the sudden", for somenone, somewhere, heard it! Ok, some of you have never heard of it (I am myself included in this group) and some of you have. We can state that it is wrong but only according to specific circumstances in which we should use "all of a sudden", but it does not change anything. You cannot deny its use and you cannot judge it as the result of laziness. How can we be sure that in the future people will not be saying something even more weird to our "grammatically correct" ears?
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March 24, 2009, 7:06pm
im 16 and i dont know which one is the "correct phrase" but who really cares...it depends on how people interpret the phrase. i was just talking to my boyfriend and said "all of THE sudden" and he had the nerve to correct me. maybe the small percentage of people that say all of THE sudden are actually the ones using the phrase correctly. maybe the first time someone ever said the idiom, used THE. over the years, phrases change and people adapt to the language around them. maybe both are wrong. maybe the correct way to say it is all of suddenly...we will never know. so dont go walking around calling people uneducated and correcting people about the way they talk unless ur the one that created the phrase...and then if you are the one that created the phrase, make sure noone else has said something similar, because then more drama will be made over something dumb, such as who is saying a stupid idiom correctly.
so please people, get off ur high horse and get ur heads outta the clouds...get a life.
oh and someone can email me about the topic..this really angered me. and im willing to debate.
March 25, 2009, 11:10pm
I'm shocked at how, in a forum on proper usage of idiom, so many people misspell words and make embarrassing grammatical errors. Take, for example, the girl posting directly above: she constantly makes use of "ur" and types "THE", rather than simply making use of quotation marks. Another poster seemingly refused to capitalize his I's. I don't mind that people write in such a way on forums generally, but on a grammar website I suppose I just expect a bit more.
May 17, 2007, 9:47am
Thank you all for the enlightenment. It saved me from sticking my foot in my mouth. I'm over here as an English instructor at Mao's old school and I like to present myself as an authority on American expressions. So when I saw an abbreviation on a teacher's blackboard tonight, AOTS, defined as "all of the sudden" I considered correcting yet another Chinglish phrase. I missed the chance and decided to check it out online. I just want you to know that they're teaching it as an abbreviation here in Changsha for chat. Others popular in texts in China are sb (somebody) and sth (something), which took me a while to get used to. Prescriptively, Chinese English tends to be a mixture of British and American English in general , maybe a bit more British.
December 9, 2009, 12:59am
What a bunch of morons with nothing better to do than argue completely meaningless crap. Enjoy your evening!
April 13, 2007, 9:06am
I found this thread because I am editing some text and the author wrote "...all of a sudden..." and it sounded funny / odd to me. I say "All of the sudden..."
I started out reading intently, but alas this is a long thread and I must continue editing. I will leave it the way he wrote it...I guess this is the proper form anyway. :-)
June 24, 2011, 12:46pm
Both COULD make sense, though using "a" is more correct.The original version of this term was, "in all of a sudden," meaning, it happened in one sudden moment, all of it. So saying it happened in all of a sudden does indeed make sense. "In all of the sudden" sounds rather stupid, is pretty silly, and doesn't really make sense. THE sudden, referring to the "sudden" it happened, if it was really just a sudden-- or rather, THE sudden is just a butchering of English."All the sudden," don't even.I live in Wisconsin and hear both versions, though "all of the sudden, this happened" is a huge pet peeve of mine and I only REALLY hear it from this stupid 16-year-old boy failing out of school named Jake.Though I'm 17, turning 18 in three months.
Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?
May 23, 2007, 9:24am
What's also interesting is that, at least for the first page of search results, nearly all of the google listings for "all of the sudden" are explaining why it is incorrect. I'm not saying it is or isn't, but that does seem to be many others' take on it.
December 9, 2007, 7:40am
I have also noticed this corruption of the familiar expression creeping into people's spoken English over the past few years and wondered where it came from. And now . . . here it is in print, in today's New York Times! On page 1 of the Week in Review section, in an article on economics by Peter Goodman. What are we coming to?!
July 29, 2010, 2:13pm
Dorothea, you know what's even worse? When "like" is used, not as an interjective, but in place of the word "said":
"...and I like, 'what should we do today?' And he like, 'I dunno.' And I like, 'ya wanna go to the mall?' And he like, 'yeah, ok.'..."
August 15, 2008, 10:28am
I am in my 40's and grew up saying 'all of a sudden'. In recent years I have noticed the phrase 'all the sudden'. What I have also noticed is that it is being used by younger people - people in their 20's and 30's. It just seems like the new generation is reinventing it to now become 'all the sudden'. Listen closely sometime to people on t.v. and you will probably notice that 'all the sudden' is used a lot by younger people. I am an avid reader. I grew up in Montana. I have lived in several states, visited many countries, and lived in UK for a few years.Maybe the version we choose to use has to do with when we were raised, by whom, and where.
July 29, 2010, 3:02pm
Oooo, that IS worse. I don't recall if I've ever realized the omission of "said" when using "like" because as soon as I hear "like" used improperly, I turn off.
August 15, 2008, 10:40am
I love how this conversation started in 2005 and it is still going on in 2008!And from a few posts, it seems that the phrase 'all the sudden' is being used mostly by t.v. people - and not just the younger generation. Maybe journalists invented it! Time saving device for precious air time perhaps?
May 17, 2009, 1:53pm
Perhaps I have a very strange perspective on linguistic issues, but please hear me out.
When speaking, my goal is not generally to sound educated, but to sound <i>right</i>. A generous application of the "Rock 'n' Roll Rule" means that a contentious phrasing like this one merits a closer look... in the song performance of 20th-century pop culture. After all, nobody defines what sounds to people right better than whoever's considered cool (and stayed that way, of course). And you have audio recordings of what was said (though it may be slurred... or shouted. Or growled).
A search for lyrics across a wide range of sites will turn up far more hits for "all of a sudden" than "all of the sudden". And if you listen to songs in the latter category, it is often the case that whoever transcribed those lyrics heard the words wrong. So conclusively, what seems right to the gods of rock (as well as country and a couple of other genres) is definitely the phrase "all of <i>a</i> sudden", regardless of what is actually correct.
One phrase I had to invent this rule for was "another thing coming" versus "another think coming". It turns out that the latter -- although it sounds wrong to me -- is actually the original, proper phrase. But... if the incorrect way is good enough for Judas Priest, I don't mind being incorrect, I suppose.
Naturally, one is permitted to come up with one's own manner of speaking, but for my purposes, the set of songs with transcribed lyrics gives me a pretty decent (searchable and quantifiable) corpus of casual speech, as opposed to print. Radio, TV, and film are not quite a searchable at present, unfortunately.
July 29, 2010, 6:58pm
There is nothing in the destruction of the English language that has bugged me more in 2010 than the use of the verb REVEAL as a noun. "The big reveal!" keeps punctuating people's speech, from the loud m.c.'s on the duller-witted of the TV game shows to shallow characters on the soap operas. E.g., "Is Carol's baby daddy the biological father of her child or not? Tune in Friday for "the big reveal". Since when is "revelation" too tough a word for the general public to understand? What will happen to the Bible--will the last book of the New Testament have to be re-named "The Big Reveal"?
July 29, 2010, 7:03pm
I'm sorry to inform Patricia that the English languages has been destroyed for a long time: the noun "reveal" means "that part of the side of a doorway or window opening between the frame and the arris", first cited in 1666. With the meaning "a final revelation of something previously kept from an audience", it dates from 1975.
August 17, 2008, 7:14pm
I have always used the "the" version of the phrase. Of course, being an idiom, there is no "proper" use of the term. In fact, if being grammatically formal was the issue, we would stick with "suddenly" and dispense with the idioms completely, eh? With that in mind, either form is incorrect. I wonder what would be part of a sudden. "I have some sudden squirreled away somewhere around here..."
February 12, 2009, 7:24pm
Two things: I just wanted to be the first commenter of 2009, and I am in the "all of a sudden" camp. To hear "all of the sudden" or, even worse, "all the sudden," makes me cringe. I feel somewhat vindicated that "all of a sudden" is considered the "right" way. Verbal communication is very important to me and, although I acknowledge the inevitability of language evolving over time (glad we don't say that "soden" thing any more), I also believe that without some rules, or agreeing that some things are "right" and some things are "wrong" even though through incorrect but widespread usage the "wrong" may eventually be considered "right," verbal chaos will ensue. And long sentences like that are just "wrong."
February 13, 2009, 6:43am
Thank goodness.... I heard someone say "all the sudden" recently (first time I ever heard it), and I was like.... did I just hear that right? That COULDNT be what he said... that makes no sense!
But that IS what was said, and he's said it many times since. Not sure if this makes a difference, but I'm from the south (Carolina's), and the only person I've heard say this is from the north.
"All of a sudden".... IRegardless (jk) of what you want to call it... slang, an idiom, etc. has always been the version I've known.
Go look up each one at freedictionary.com, or MERRIAM-WEBSTER.COM, and take a look for yourself. "ALL OF A SUDDEN" is the only one that comes back with any results!
So, for all of you scholarly folks who are sitting on the fence with comments like "use either one, but if you want to be RIGHT, use suddenly". Well, the people that write dictionaries chose one to be considered acceptable, why is it so hard for you to do the same?
Finally, not to get off topic, but a few other things I hate:
irregardless - REGARDLESS/IRRESPECTIVEI could care less - I COULDNT CARE LESSnucular - NUCLEAR
there are many others, but those are some that really bother me.
July 2, 2011, 4:12pm
OMG..AND YES, I AM GOING TO USE ALL CAPS...I'M SO SICK TO DEATH OF PEOPLE SAYING "ALL THE SUDDEN" INSTEAD OF THE CORRECT "ALL OF A SUDDEN"!!!! HAVEN'T THESE PEOPLE EVER READ A BOOK OR TWO??? HOW DID THEY GET BY IN SCHOOL??? I REMEMBER HAVING TO WRITE BOOK REPORTS AND OTHER SCHOOL RELATED MATERIAL...AND.SEEING AND USING THE PHRASE "ALL OF A SUDDEN" IN MY SCHOOL WORK. SOMETIMES I GET SO ANGRY, I CAN'T EVEN FINISH WATCHING A GOOD SHOW! OH, AND BY THE WAY, WHEN YOU ARE WRITING "I'M HAVING A PARTY ON SATURDAY" NOT "I'M HAVEING A PARTY ON SATURDAY"... COMEING...HAVEING..TAKEING..... TAKE THE 'E' OFF BEFORE ADDING "ING"...WHY HAVEN'T THEIR FAMILY OR FRIENDS CORRECTED THEM??? I WOULD BE SO EMBARRASSED IF I WAS GOING AROUND SAYING OR SPELLING EASY WORD INCORRECTLY.....UGH!!!!! THE SCHOOL SYSTEM IN THIS COUNTRY IS A COMPLETE JOKE....AND EVERYONE THAT USES A COMPUTER HAS SPELL CHECK...WHEN THE WORD YOU TYPE HAS A RED LINE UNDERNEATH IT, IT MEANS YOU HAVE SPELLED IT WRONG!....GOOGLE IT IF YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO SPELL SOMETHING, INSTEAD OF LOOKING FOOLISH.
March 18, 2012, 8:56am
I don't want to sound proscriptive, but it seems to me that even idioms must have standard forms. My well educated linguist friends often argue with me about that, and tell me that language is an evolving thing, etc. I get that. I hear "a sudden" and "the sudden" with about equal frequency where I live, and so I just tried a little experiment- I called a few friends (fiive in all) who I know to be responsible for interviewing and hiring at their workplaces. I asked a simple question: "When making a tough hiring decision between two candidates, and (other things being equal), a potential employee uses the form "all of the sudden," and another uses the form "all of a sudden." Which would you hire?
Four "business-types" told me they would pick the "all of a sudden" candidate. When I asked why, they answered with varying degrees of articulate ness about it, but one answered very succinctly, " because it means he reads rather than watching TV."
The person who said it would matter was a college English Department chair, and given her non-proscriptivist leanings when it comes to standard forms, that shouldn't surprise me!
I can't speak to the global or national level use of forms of this idiom, but what I CAN say, is that where I live, if you want a job, the firm considered more standard in published works (all of a sudden) is a safer bet- unless you are applying as an English prof, and in that case, you may wind up debating this as PART of the interview.
March 18, 2012, 9:00am
Sorry- the line about the college Chairperson should have read, "...the only person who said it wouldn't matter..."
July 4, 2011, 9:07am
I'm a voracious reader, a habit that has only intensified since I got my Kindle a couple of years ago. I try to stick with the free and very cheap books and so am scraping the bottom of the Kindle barrel. However, the Kindle freebie I'm reading now is a police thriller in which "all the sudden" appears frequently. At first, I thought it was the typical poor editing problem one finds in many Kindle freebies. However, this book is surprisingly well-written, with accurate literary and historical references and free of the jarring grammar, spelling, and plotting errors. That's why I came here to see where "all the sudden" comes from. The setting is post-Katrina Houston with some references to New Orleans, and the author's name is Bertrand. So I'm thinking the Acadian connection might be right.
December 20, 2008, 9:14pm
"all the sudden" seems to be the standard form in Portland, Oregon.
I think calling people 'uneducated' and claiming that they've 'never read' because they use "the" rather than "of a" is completely ridiculous. My mother is a Language Arts professor and she says "All the sudden." my father has two master's degrees and he says "all the sudden." I'm a high school student in the top percentile and I say "all the sudden." I've also seen "all the sudden" used in the newspaper, and in dialogue in a couple of books.
These kinds of variations are an inevitable part of language, and subject to locality and generation.
June 2, 2008, 2:18pm
Hey Kenny G, first you say:
"...this is a much bigger phenomenon than anyone's personal opinion on the subject."
but then you say:
"Anyways, I don't like "all of a sudden" or "all the sudden" personally as much because ..."
Who are you kidding? You don't like them only because they're not what YOU normally say. They don't sound quite right to you because they're not the particular idiom that you've internalized. You're as guilty of extending your personal opinion to everyone else as those you criticize.
And while we're at it, if millions of people say "all of the sudden" or "all the sudden", that's really not the point. BILLIONS of people say "all of a sudden". Now, don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying any of the three are "right" or "wrong". Clearly all three are used and accepted. However, it seems pretty clear that "all of a sudden" is the most commonly used, standard, if such a word can describe an idiom, with the others being regionalisms.
Compare this to y'all, or howdy, from the southern USA, or youse guys from the northeast. Millions of people say them, but they're dialectical. They're not wrong, but they're definitely regional. I can't imagine, say, the Pope using them.
September 26, 2005, 3:07pm
I've never heard the phrase "all the sudden", it must be regional.
June 15, 2006, 3:45pm
I'm from New York. I have travelled, well, not extensively, but at least moderately, within the US and the world. I am familiar with "all of a sudden", but have never heard "all the sudden" or "all of the sudden". I have never even heard of it until this post. On the other hand, I have heard the expression "all the rage" describing some latest fad or fashion.
June 5, 2009, 3:42pm
In my English compostion class we actually had this discussion with many popular phrases like this. Our school had people from different parts of the country and what we found out was that people in different parts of the country say things differently. It may not necessarily be that one way is right or wrong, it just doesn't seem "normal" to everyone else. An example that stuck out with me was the fact that the kids from the South (Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, etc.) tended to say "accrossed" instead of "accross." For example, "The wind blew acrossed/accross the state." Our teacher explained that it wasnt wrong to say accrossed, but it was just an evolved way of the word accross. The way things are worded over time becomes kind of like the game telephone. Another way to look at it is when European-Americans came to America through New York in the 1700's the people writing down names would sound out the name and write it how they thought it sounded. My lage name is Lage but it could have very well been Large, but the person recording the name could have forgotten the 'R' or it just got lost in translation somewhere along the lines. That is how I look at the way phrases are worded. No way is particularly right, nor wrong.
March 29, 2010, 7:24pm
So let's see... "All the sudden" is used by a small number of uneducated types in the American South and Midwest and in the northern UK. That's quite a lot of land mass, but still, everyone knows these are the uneducated parts of the English-speaking world. If you search Google for variants of this expression, you'll find that "all the sudden" is the most common, followed by "all of the sudden", and finally "all of a sudden". This is to be expected, since users of the Internet are typically uneducated.
September 14, 2012, 11:23pm
I had a lot of fun reading these posts!
My husband and I just had a "discussion" about which phrase is correct, so I ended up here. We both grew up in Chicago and somehow we ended up saying it differently. Now I have to survey my friends and coworkers just for fun. I really don't see why people are getting so angry about "a" vs. "the" when we should be more worried about the rampant use of the word "heighth."
October 18, 2010, 2:23am
Kipling truncated the idiom to "of a sudden." I suspect, Slobby, he'd read a book.
June 6, 2009, 10:04pm
I'm so glad y'all had this discussion! I am editing a memoir for a friend and trying diligently not to drown out her personal, chatty, slangy style with grammatical dictatorship. She uses the phrase, "all the sudden", and my instinct was to correct it. But reading this discussion confirmed my thought that the phrase was a regional thing and part of her writer's voice. Thanks kids!
June 7, 2012, 8:24am
Wow! What an arrogant society we live in. The correct phrase is, "all of the sudden," it means suddenly (in the sudden moment of time). It is an adverbial phrase. If you have a phrase, "all of a sudden" it must mean (in a sudden moment of time). When speaking of a specific moment of time, does your usage of English allow you to say, "in a moment of time?" Mine doesn't because that phrase is used to refer to how long something takes, or how long something took. It does, however, allow me to say, "in the moment of time" referring to a particular moment. So, we say, "all of the sudden," not "all of a sudden." I have often suspected that, "all of a sudden" was a somewhat ignorant attempt to repeat the phrase, "all of the sudden." After reading these posts, I can see it has gained approval and acceptance and is viable in today's English. Fortunately, language, unlike nature, actually does evolve. Unlike the fossil records, we can look at the linguistic records and find evidence of how and sometimes why it changed over time. We live in a backward society. We think language should be treated as exact, but that it is okay to believe in a theory driven science (but, of course, that is part of another battle).
June 8, 2012, 2:54pm
@BillB ... You should try looking in a wordbook before making such pronouncements.
From M-W: — all of a sudden also on a sudden: sooner than was expected : at oncehttp://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sudden
From the Oxford Dictionary Online: Phrases(all) of a suddensuddenly: I feel really tired all of a suddenon a sudden archaic way of saying all of a sudden.http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/sudden
If that isn't enuff ... try Google ngrams: http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=al...
April 20, 2009, 4:42pm
"All of a sudden" is the correct phrase. "All the sudden" is a butchered idiom, and is probably based upon mis-hearing the phrase without ever having seen it in print. "All of a sudden" means "all at once". It implies stealth, or an unexpected or unpredictable action. "All the sudden" and "all of the sudden" are essentially meaningless. Go to any good online dictionary, such as dictionary.com or m-w.com and look up "all the sudden". It won't be listed. "All of a sudden" will.
December 19, 2011, 11:06am
In many parts of England, people pronounce "th" as "v" (brother=brovah). Also, "all of a sudden" when spoken quickly, sounds like "all va sudden." So, the English bastardization makes sense.Language morphs over time, usually due to laziness. So, like it or not, "all the sudden" is likely to replace "all of a sudden" because it is slightly easier to say.I could point the prevalence of "all the sudden" in southern states as evidence of this, but that might be perceived as a jab at their litteracy or work ethic, so I will refrain.
October 31, 2007, 1:49pm
In the battle of the two phrases, "all of a sudden" wins out. "All of the sudden" makes no more sense than if someone were to say "one at the time" instead of "one at a time." Just because people use it colloquially doesn't make it grammatically correct. Bad logic.
All of a sudden - "sudden" is the action. Needs no follow-up.
All of the sudden - by itself doens't hold up. One is left hanging. In order to make a grammatical sentence out of it you'd need to add to it.
for example: All of the sudden movements scared the birds away.
The only people who try to justify the use of "all of the sudden" or "all the sudden" are those who've been using the phrase incorrectly.
September 12, 2008, 2:22pm
As far as regions where the term "all the sudden" is used, I have another one to add. I taught 5th grade in Southern California (just North of LA) for two years. I had never heard that phrase until I began seeing it (and correcting it) in my students' writing. I also just read the term on my friend's blog. She also lives in SoCal. So, it seems to me that people across the country are using it as the Northeast, Midwest and the South were previously mentioned.It is my guess that the term "all of the sudden" is spreading because many people are reading less and therefore seeing the idiom in print less frequently. As the incorrect form is heard more often, people around them also pick up on it and continue using the term incorrectly
August 21, 2007, 9:57pm
Not the definite article, it's the indefinite article!
December 19, 2011, 6:50pm
Wilkie Collins uses "all on a sudden" in The Woman in White. Check it out on Google. Use Google and search "books" using the term "all on a sudden". Google will correct your search to "all of a sudden", but click on the tab that says, "search instead for all on a sudden" and you'll get it.
I've seen this elsewhere, but I can't remember exactly where.
March 11, 2009, 6:39pm
BOtH phrases are acceptable. "The" is an article, and "a" is an article. One is specific, the other general but both function as articles before nouns. Therefore, if you say "... the sudden" or "...a sudden" you are placing an article before "sudden" implying your use of the word as a noun.
Sudden can be a noun in English, though the use of such is mainly obsolete. Since both phrases are idiomatic, they do not obey all laws of grammar in English, much like proper names. It is not incorrect to use figurative or folk-rooted language, it IS incorrect to apply irrelevant rules or to use unrelated single words as examples when talking on phrases. Words and phrases do not follow the same rules.
Please do not rely on you own opinion and personal experience to determine the truth or accuracy of something. That shows true ignorance of the scientific method and linguistics are in fact, science.
Also, relying on free online dictionaries is not exactly high-level linguistics either.
Some examples of historic usage to prove the case:
"withdrew his opposition all of a sudden" -- W.M.Thackeray "the driver had swerved on a sudden to avoid a file of geese" -- Ellen Glasgow"an effect, on the sudden, of real sublimity" -- Walter Pater
You folks who consider yourselves superior can climb down off of your soap boxes now and complain about something else.
Tavius Lord of Grammar
February 14, 2014, 7:13pm
I've never even heard of this "all the sudden" or "all of the sudden" foolishness. The idiom is "all of a sudden". If you disagree, then you are stupid and deserve to be assaulted by apes and lizards. That is all.
February 15, 2014, 1:59am
MyLord,"All the sudden" comes up in the London Magazine from 1738 and "all of the sudden" in John Dryden. Try googling the phrases.
February 15, 2014, 4:25am
@jayles: nice try
London Magazine 1738 - unfortunately Google Books has combined phrases from two adjacent columns -
L "are liable to so many Changes and to such sudden and unlooked for Alterations"R "that his Majesty should communicate all the Secrets of his Cabinet"
"that his to so many Changes, and to such Majesty should communicate all the sudden and unlooked for Alterations, Secrets of his Cabinet"
But even if that was what they had written, 'sudden' here would be an adjective and not part of this particular idiom.
Searching Google Books for ' "all of the sudden" john dryden' brings up two quotes:
"All of the sudden she fell into the agony of death"
"[who] made the step to Popery all of the sudden, without any previous instruction or conference"
But it turns out that neither of these are from Dryden. The first is from an article on the 'controversy between Dryden and Stillingfeet' , possibly by Sir Walter Scot, published in a book of Dryden's poetry. The second is also quoted in a book of Dryden's poetry, but turns out to be from a book on the Stuarts by (Bishop) Gilbert Burnet, published in 1688, referring to the Earl of Sunderland, one of James II's advisers. A rather interesting contemporary account of the fall of James II, as it happens.
On the other hand, Dryden does seem to have a penchant for:"on a sudden":
"Ten times more gentle than your Father's cruel, How on a sudden all my Griefs are vanish'd!"
"all on a sudden there broke out terrible Thunders and fiery Flashes"
"and that by which Leonidas, after being carried off to execution, on a sudden snatches a sword from one of the guards, proclaims himself rightful king"
A look at Ngram suggests that 'all of the sudden' had a little flourish around 1700, but these two alternative versions were rather short lived.
February 15, 2014, 4:27am
Correction - Burnet's book was published in 1724
September 20, 2008, 8:16am
Hell yeah Dan!!
David Calman (unregistered)
September 21, 2008, 2:06pm
It must be "all of a sudden" or "suddenly" beause "sudden event" :)
February 17, 2014, 5:25am
@jayles - I should have put a smiley after 'nice try'. I didn't mean it in a negative way.
February 17, 2014, 1:43pm
@WW evidently failed to convert. How about:http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/all-of-a-sud...
appologies: articles can PRECEDE more than only nouns...
November 20, 2009, 4:49pm
Here's another, apparently new usage of a word that I counted wrong on a college student's paper just a semester ago: using "REVEAL" as a noun.
For instance, "And now we welcome to our stage... Sarah Palin. She may have a big REVEAL for us about her plans for 2012!"
If a person wants to REVEAL some new information, it's OK by me. But when a personhas a surprise announcement, that''s a REVELATION, and always has been. So far this week, I've heard REVEAL used as a noun 5 or 6 times. Must we dumb down the English language yet again?
November 20, 2009, 10:50pm
Sorry Pat, you're 400 years too late to save English. The OED has a citation for "reveal" as a noun meaning "revelation" from 1629.
February 17, 2014, 6:05pm
November 21, 2009, 12:55pm
When you hang a door, the space between the door and the door frame is called a "reveal", not a "revelation". Also, in a TV ad, the moment when the product is displayed, often as a solution to some consumer problem, is called the "reveal" in the advertising industry.
February 17, 2014, 6:09pm
@WW Can't remember Dryden but didn't Donne go like:
What did we do till we googled?
For God's sake hold your tongue and let me google...
February 17, 2014, 9:00pm
I wonder by my troth, what thou and IDid, till we googled? and texted?
March 3, 2010, 4:18pm
I grew up in central Virginia. Said and heard 'all of a sudden' all my life--until I was about 55 and living in Los Angeles where a co-worker, originally from Arkansas, and I got into a (not acrimonious) debate about 'all of a sudden' vs. 'all the sudden'. I got to this site doing research on vernacular for a story I'm writing. Thanks for a great discussion!
February 18, 2014, 2:09pm
@jayles - had a far healthier life, no doubt. From your Grammarphobia link -' “All of a sudden” first appeared in 1681' - now there's a challenge for us Googlers:
"therefore all of a sudden they came with great violence unto Aaron, urging him to make them one" - Seven Godlie and Frvitfvll Sermons, 1614
"for Antichrists apostacy was not at the highest all of a sudden, but encreased by flow (slow) paces" - David Pareus, 1644
"He tells him what a disgrace it would be for him, if without order of law he should ( all of a sudden) bring so man Noblemen to the scaffold without a crime" - The History of the Houses of Douglas and Angus - David Hume, 1644
Now I can answer your question - relied on the OED to give us earliest appearances. But nowadays, if it's into the printing era, we can often beat the OED, just by looking in Google Books.
April 26, 2007, 2:01pm
Here's another one that drive me nuts: "a couple... " in lieu of "a couple of...". "A couple drinks", or whatever. While I find the question of "all of a sudden" vs "all of the" merely interesting, with this one I am inclined to assume laziness. Any thoughts?
March 4, 2010, 1:18am
Who was the linguistically lazy individual who decided to call a new and startling announcement "the big reveal"? Until perhaps 2 years ago, those who read and had a fair vocabulary called an exciting bit of news "a revelation". I didn't think that was too big a word for most of us to use and understand. What's next? Someone whom we have always commended as having great 'determination'....would she or he now be said to have a "lot of determine"? Nails on a chalkboard.
February 18, 2014, 2:19pm
@jayles - and from your other link (phrasefinder) - " 'All of a sudden' sounds like the kind of poetic version of 'suddenly' that would do justice to Shakespeare. In fact, that's what Shakespeare thought too, as it was he who coined the phrase. In The Taming of the Shrew, circa 1596, we find: Is it possible That love should of a sodaine take such hold?"
So Shakespeare coined the phrase? Around 1596?
"Behold of a sodaine behinde me, I heard a rusling noyse, like the winde or beating of a Dragons winges" - Hypnerotomachia, the strife of love in a dreame - Francesco Colonna, Robert Dallington - 1592 (no apostrophes in those days)
February 18, 2014, 4:31pm
Shakespeare - sudden used as a noun:on the sudden, upon the sudden - 8 instanceson a sudden, upon a sudden - 4 instancesof a sudden - 2 instancesnone with all
It looks as though the 'the' version came first.
February 18, 2014, 5:25pm
@WW etymonline.com suggests : upon the soden (1550s)and this does show up as such on google, although I couldn't quite get an exact date earlier than 1591.
February 19, 2014, 8:54am
@jayles- they probably got it from the OED (1558) - I've got 'upon the sudden' from 1585. I think you're much better looking at Google Books than Google as you can narrow down the dates and miss out all the dross.
Anyway I'm putting it all into a post, and will give details when finished. One thing is clear - 'on a sudden' carried on co-existing with 'all of a sudden' during the eihgteenth century.
OK I've found the 1558 one, but you can't get in to check
September 30, 2008, 11:16pm
I am interested that no one is offering citations to back their assertions.
Some arguments are fairly well reasoned, but none seem conclusive because adequate references are not provided.
While one phrase may "seem" more correct, more widely used, than another, only statistical analysis can provide an accurate determination. Some statistically based examinations suggest that "all of a sudden" is used more frequently, but precise studies which reveal the distribution and use of the phrases in question are not cited.
Furthermore, grammatical arguments that have been presented are fairly technical, somewhat vague, and, again, do not offer referrals to well-credential sources.
I submit that using a definite article makes the phrase more specific and, therefore, more desirable.
Both "I was surprised by a sudden flash of light" and "I jumped at the sudden movement of her hand" make sense.
Perhaps there is a correllary with the phrase in question. Perhaps context most correctly determines which article should be used.
Thank you for your discussion.
August 17, 2009, 2:25pm
If any of you can actullay tell me what a "sudden" is,(which would be a noun), I will gladly accept your postulation that it is "all of a sudden", but since the term "all of the sudden" implies an adverb with "sudden" as a form of "suddenly", this form makes more sense gramatically. Not to mention that, "all of a sudden" does not imply an adverb, but implies the totality, (all), of the aforementioned "Sudden", and therefore, does not relate to time, which is the point of the saying, "all of a/the sudden", implying in a short span of time.Many of you have stated that you have only heard "all of a sudden" used all of your life, I am in my mid fifties and have never heard it used untill the last couple of years when all of the people started migrating here from the Northern states. As another poster mentioned, I don't care about where you are from, or what you say there, I am searching for the CORRECT usage.
October 1, 2008, 1:24am
Hutch, AO, I think you both missed something. The word "sudden' is also a noun. The use is archaic, but means a sudden occurrence. Use this obsolete definition and all of a sudden, the expression makes perfect grammatical sense.
December 17, 2012, 11:44am
I know what I say. I have never noticed it spoken or written in a way that would have conflicted with what I say. But for the first time ever, I was corrected for writing all of the sudden, and now, I'm sure I'm going to notice this every time I see or hear it.
July 11, 2008, 8:16am
I remember "all the sudden" (or sometimes "all uh sudden") was the way kids said it when they were still pretty young. As they became better listeners and readers they realized that the phrase was "all of a sudden" and included all four words when using the expression. I'm over 50 years old and have lived in five states and had never heard "all of the sudden" or "all the sudden" used by a grownup, but today I saw it in in print in the San Francisco Chronicle. It made me feel really old because my first thought was "what is the world coming to!"
November 27, 2008, 12:59pm
All of a sudden I hear broadcasters everywhere saying, "That begs the question," when they mean, "That brings up or suggests the question."Begging the question is a false argumentative technique, but it's being used in this other sense so often, that it behooves old-fashioned rear-guard grammar activists like me to simply accept it and move on.Like splitting infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions and using like as an adverb.All the sudden I feel very old and inconsequential.
April 11, 2008, 1:51pm
I'm originally from Ohio (midwest) and have also lived on the East Coast, the West Coast, and have now been in Texas for 20 years.
I've always heard and used "all of a sudden"; in fact, it wasn't until about a year ago that I first saw "all the sudden" and it bugged.
I saw it in an online posting, though, so I can't tell you where the user was from.
February 22, 2014, 11:21am
Sudden started to be used as a noun in the sixteenth century. At the time various expressions were used, with both 'a' and 'the', but without 'all' (there are none with 'all' in Shakespeare, for example).
'All on the sudden' was probably the first version with 'all', followed by 'all of a sudden' and 'all on a sudden', with a few examples of 'all on the sudden'. ' All of a sudden' fairly quickly became the standard, but apart from usage, I can see no reason why it is logically better than the others. Incidentally 'on a sudden' lasted well into the eighteenth century.
'All of the sudden' and 'all the sudden' seem to have caught on in a small way since the 1980's, but especially in the 2000s. I can't see any dialect basis for them, and they seem to have largely gone unnoticed, except by Brian Garner:
For my copiously illustrated history, see:
July 13, 2008, 9:48am
What fun reading these posts have been. I have been hearing 'all the sudden' on TV lately and it has caught my attention. The phrase 'all of a sudden' has been what I have heard all of my life. (Isn't it in 'the night before Christmas.. when all of a sudden there rose such a clatter. I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.?)
I am a speech pathologist and have thought about this for a while. If you say 'all', your tongue is at the top of your teeth, and it slides easily to 'the' rather than jump back for 'of' if you get my drift. So it is easier to just say 'all the sudden' (lazy tongue, I would add) than to say the whole 4 word phrase.
So, it sounds to me like the folks who use the 'all the sudden' have learned it from others who just haven't heard it correctly and have let their tongues slip lazily into 'the'.....
October 4, 2008, 8:28am
In a recent (9/26/08) article Charles Krauthammer said "Now all of the sudden everything is the fault of Wall Street malfeasance." In my 60+ years I've never heard anyone in NC use that expression. It sounds awkward to me, but if it is commonly used in other places, so be it.
My biggest hangup is the usage of "lay" for "lie." I hear it more than 99.9% of the time. I give up!
October 4, 2008, 8:35pm
Chuck, you have touched on one of my pet peeves, people who criticize "Now I lay me down to sleep...", saying that lay should be lie, when, in fact, "lay" in the little poem is correct. I guess that's the opposite of your pet peeve.
March 10, 2012, 7:10pm
The incorrect usage of this phrase drives me crazy! Oh--and may I add to the list "fustrated" and "supposably?"
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