English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

He's been described as "an inspiration" to jihadists the world over, but this morning 29-year-old Australian man Musa Cerantonio is languishing in a jail cell in the Philippines. (Aussie ABC)

What does the highlighted phrase mean? Does it modify the previous noun, jihadists, and meaning: in the world that is over there?

share|improve this question
"the world over" can often be used to mean "all over the world" (i.e., "worldwide"). – J.R. Jul 13 '14 at 23:51
up vote 5 down vote accepted

This is a fixed phrase with two forms:

   all the world over
       the world over     (This version is more common.)

It's a literary postmodifier meaning "all over the world; everywhere; throughout the world".

Since it's a fixed phrase with rather unique grammar, we don't really need to analyze it. But if we do so anyway, we might say something like this: The preposition over takes (all) the world as a complement, even though it comes afterwards instead of before. This is unusual, but not unprecedented—it is similar to the preposition ago.

Since the entire phrase is a postmodifier, it follows what it modifies. In this case, that means it modifies the noun jihadists.

It does not mean "in the world that is over there".

share|improve this answer
Thank you very much. After reading your answer, I now get yours in Random House #24:”over -> through a region, area, etc.: He was known the world over.“ – Listenever Jul 13 '14 at 23:32
And I get your explanation, 'prepositions following their complement in PP structure, in CGEL (p.631-2). Thanks a lot. – Listenever Jul 13 '14 at 23:38
It does not modify the noun! It modifies the prepositional phrase to jihadists. – curiousdannii Jul 14 '14 at 1:59

The world over is another way -now rather literary and clichéd- of saying all over the world, meaning “at places throughout the world”. It does modify jihadists.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.