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Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More

all _____ sudden

Is it regional to use “all of a sudden” versus “all the sudden?” The former sounds more correct to me.

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Andy, I feel you, bruh (a phrase I wouldn’t have thought to use twenty years ago) and I even gave you a vote, in a fit of commiseration, but Candace is on the money. Language changes and slang becomes acceptable usage as soon as someone in the public eye is heard (or misheard not) using it.

Sadly, printed books are not the authority they once were, despite how some of us clutch them like pearls in our shock and astonishment at the way our mother tongue is being so wantonly twisted.

I have cringed at “all of the sudden” and “all the sudden” (a congressperson’s use of it brings me here tonight) since I started hearing it five years ago. But I expect by then it had been happening for a minute, since I’ve just been too damned old to run with the pack for nearly a score of earthly orbits.

The same feeling came over me in the aughts when I noticed that the letter “t” and even “th” were getting shorter shrift than they had for the first forty years of my life. “Nothing,” “nutting” and even “nuthin’” had all been left cold for “nu’in.”

I have a friend I’ve known since 1985 who still says “supposably.” We all gave him trouble about it but he just never got over what we all chalked up to a bad habit that his parents neglected to nip in the bud. He has a teenager now and I often wonder how that situation has sorted itself.

Not long after landing in Indiana, after most of a life out West, I got a job at the local library where i was offended by the lack of the words “to be” where I knew they absolutely should have (please don’t say “should of” near me) been. Suddenly the people whom the entire community considered arbiters of acceptable elocution were telling me “that binding needs fixed” and I wanted to die.

I know a Scottish lass who cannot understand how the rest of us get “hoo” from “who,” and I have no good answer for her.

It’s unbearable hell, but the wet sand is escaping from under our toes every time the waves roll out. The only consolation is the same is certain to keep happening and none will be spared the indignity.

JaniGerada Feb-03-2021

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I’ve been watching television on low volume with subtitles quite a bit over the past few months, mostly due to the fact that I’m a bored and tired nursing mom under quarantine during a pandemic and I don’t want to wake the baby. I noticed “all of a sudden” written in subtitles and It grabbed my attention. I’ve always said “All of the sudden.” I A quick google search led me to conclude that I had been saying the phrase incorrectly for 38 years. Ugh. I hate being wrong. Outside of that, I dreaded the thought of having to put conscious effort into correcting myself, knowing that I would be neurotic about paying attention to listening to myself speak. I made a mental note to ask around and determine if other people say “a” or “the”. The two people I remembered to asked indeed say “a”. Ugh. So...I forgot about it and moved on. However, over the next few months I would see “all of a sudden” pop up on the subtitles and it would irk me. So I decided to turn up the volume to audible range and strangely, I began to notice that some people said “all of a sudden, but multiple people would say “all of THE sudden” but the subtitles would read “all of A sudden. Ahem? What kind of autocorrect stratagem is happening on screen? Another google search led me to this thread tonight and I must say, I feel an overwhelming sense of relief. I CAN continue to paddle upstream in my little rudderless dingy and try to climb on board “all of a sudden”, but I think I’m going to climb back into the “all of the sudden” boat, nestled safely in between the intellectuals and idiots; students and seniors; northerners, southerners, midwesterners and Chinese. It’s clearly where I belong.

Willapark Jul-14-2020

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Yes, it is an idiom. However, those who say, "get over it" (i.e. do not read) do not understand how the misused idiom makes the speaker sound less intelligent and thus erodes their credibility.

user108230 Sep-18-2019

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Man, I have heard this "all the sudden" boo-caca from some TV personalities, and granted, they are only saying what they were taught to say by others around them, while growing up... BUT! it's supposed to be 'all of A sudden" being that 'a sudden' seems like it's being used as a noun... because it CAN be (and IS) used as a noun, i.e. "all of a sudden" ;) Truly it is used in it's correct and incorrect form... if you have to be anal about it (I am NOT saying that there's anything wrong with that btdubs), say something to the person that says it wrong... if you can live with it, then do.

I said " all of the sudden once", but it wasn't by purpose it was on accident

judyono Oct-02-2016

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I hear "all the sudden" in interviews on NPR. I agree with asheibar that such colloquialisms emerge because they are heard and passed on, but not seen in written text. It reminds me of the occasion someone had written on the blackboard, "It's a doggy dog world." Clearly, whoever wrote this had never seen the written version, "It's a dog eat dog world." Well, marzy dotes and dozey dotes and little lambsy divey" !

It does not bother me that colloquialisms emerge and colonize the language; what bothers me is that it seems that reading is becoming a quaint, anachronistic habit performed by backward looking people who haven't caught on that it's all in the tweet.

vgb Jun-29-2016

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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:

Warsaw Will Feb-22-2014

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@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

Warsaw Will Feb-19-2014

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@WW 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.

jayles Feb-18-2014

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Shakespeare - sudden used as a noun:
on the sudden, upon the sudden - 8 instances
on a sudden, upon a sudden - 4 instances
of a sudden - 2 instances
none with all

It looks as though the 'the' version came first.

Warsaw Will Feb-18-2014

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@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)

Warsaw Will Feb-18-2014

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@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.

Warsaw Will Feb-18-2014

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I wonder by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we googled? and texted?

jayles Feb-17-2014

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@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...

jayles Feb-17-2014

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@WW evidently failed to convert. How about:

jayles Feb-17-2014

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@jayles - I should have put a smiley after 'nice try'. I didn't mean it in a negative way.

Warsaw Will Feb-17-2014

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Correction - Burnet's book was published in 1724

Warsaw Will Feb-15-2014

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@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"

to give:

"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",cdr:1,cd_min:1600,cd_max:1868&lr=lang_en#lr=lang_en&q=%22on+a+sudden%22+john+dryden&tbas=0&tbm=bks&tbs=lr:lang_1en

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.,cdr:1,cd_min:1679,cd_max:1723&lr=lang_en

Warsaw Will Feb-15-2014

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"All the sudden" comes up in the London Magazine from 1738 and "all of the sudden" in John Dryden.
Try googling the phrases.

jayles Feb-15-2014

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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.

Tavius Lord of Grammar Feb-14-2014

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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.

maria1 Dec-17-2012

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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."

Grammarlynn Sep-14-2012

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@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 once

From the Oxford Dictionary Online:
(all) of a sudden
suddenly: I feel really tired all of a sudden
on a sudden
archaic way of saying all of a sudden.

If that isn't enuff ... try Google ngrams:

AnWulf Jun-08-2012

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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).

BillB Jun-07-2012

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I also realize I meant to write "...non-prescriptivist leanings..." as well. I should really proofread more- especially posting in a grammar forum!

JA Mar-18-2012

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Sorry- the line about the college Chairperson should have read, "...the only person who said it wouldn't matter..."

JA Mar-18-2012

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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.

JA Mar-18-2012

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The incorrect usage of this phrase drives me crazy! Oh--and may I add to the list "fustrated" and "supposably?"

Sspurser Mar-10-2012

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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.

Hairy Dec-19-2011

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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.

mrcaleb Dec-19-2011

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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.

Kristin1 Jul-04-2011

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Jade Jul-02-2011

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@ MLH:

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!

porsche Jun-26-2011

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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?

Alicia1 Jun-24-2011

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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.

mlh Apr-26-2011

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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!

vwmoll Dec-31-2010

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Whatevs, Shakespeare.

Slobby wins.

thenotoriousrob77 Dec-21-2010

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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. Dec-21-2010

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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.

thenotoriousrob77 Dec-21-2010

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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. Dec-21-2010

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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.

thenotoriousrob77 Dec-20-2010

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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. Dec-20-2010

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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.

xoxcinnamonsugar Nov-19-2010

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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.

dogreed Oct-21-2010

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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

girlnblack77 Oct-19-2010

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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.

thenotoriousrob77 Oct-18-2010

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Kipling truncated the idiom to "of a sudden." I suspect, Slobby, he'd read a book.

dogreed Oct-18-2010

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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?

thenotoriousrob77 Oct-17-2010

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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.

goofy Jul-29-2010

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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"?

namimommy2008 Jul-29-2010

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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.

printzessdea Jul-29-2010

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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.'..."

porsche Jul-29-2010

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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!

printzessdea Jul-29-2010

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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.

jones Mar-29-2010

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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.

namimommy2008 Mar-04-2010

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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!

janellrcarter Mar-03-2010

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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.

Jon2 Jan-05-2010

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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".)

Gwillim_Law Nov-25-2009

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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.

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.

bjhagerman Nov-21-2009

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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.

porsche Nov-21-2009

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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.

John4 Nov-20-2009

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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 person
has 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?

namimommy2008 Nov-20-2009

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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.

craigdaulong Aug-17-2009

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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.

uwprof Jun-29-2009

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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!

redfern Jun-06-2009

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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.

madisonlage Jun-05-2009

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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 right. 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 a 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.

neokien May-17-2009

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"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 or and look up "all the sudden". It won't be listed. "All of a sudden" will.

markf Apr-20-2009

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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.

Daniel5 Mar-25-2009

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im 16 and i dont know which one is the "correct phrase" but who really 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.

tadachip Mar-24-2009

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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.

Tim3 Mar-11-2009

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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, 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:

I could care less - I COULDNT CARE LESS
nucular - NUCLEAR

there are many others, but those are some that really bother me.

JT Feb-13-2009

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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."

realdeadwoodpodcast Feb-12-2009

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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.

Suzanne Dec-31-2008

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"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.

jesse Dec-20-2008

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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.

dboss Nov-27-2008

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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.

porsche Oct-04-2008

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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!

Chuck1 Oct-04-2008

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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.

porsche Oct-01-2008

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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.

fraktol Sep-30-2008

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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"?


moreimportantly Sep-24-2008

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It must be "all of a sudden" or "suddenly" beause "sudden event" :)

David_Calman Sep-21-2008

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Hell yeah Dan!!

anonymous4 Sep-20-2008

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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

Megan1 Sep-12-2008

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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..."

Chuckles Aug-17-2008

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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?

jolls Aug-15-2008

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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.

jolls Aug-15-2008

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"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.

Trevor1 Jul-16-2008

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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'.....

megSLP Jul-13-2008

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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!"

windowperson Jul-11-2008

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hey anonymous-

"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..

P_Hat Jun-17-2008

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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.

Sazzie Jun-16-2008

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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.

Kenney_G Jun-02-2008

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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.

anonymous4 Jun-02-2008

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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.

Kenney_G Jun-01-2008

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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 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.

shikimo May-20-2008

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"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*.

Jonathan1 May-05-2008

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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.

OnTheCouch Apr-11-2008

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All of a sudden, I think everyone here has way too much time on their hands!

theseanman66 Jan-30-2008

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