A quote attributed to Hippocrates himself, and translated into English many years ago.

However, is this correct English? "all" seems to be referring to a plural, "disease" however is singular. Is this correct English today, or does it need altering so as to conform to modern usage?

  • 2
    Hello, Tristan. 'All the milk has been used' is an example of the quantifier 'all' being used with a mass noun. I'm sure you'll agree that it's quite acceptable. 'Famine and disease often follow war' shows that 'disease' may be used as a mass noun. ('Smallpox and malaria are terrible diseases' shows it being used as a count noun instead.) Look up "all quantifier" or "all determiner", "mass noun" and "count noun" to familiarise yourself with these concepts. And please consider whether ELL would suit your needs better. // PS Hippocrates didn't use English; I've edited to show this. Oct 10 '16 at 8:57
  • Edwin sums this up nicely. In addition, the quote is archaic in nature - the ancient Greeks didn't understand disease in the same way that we do.
    – Pete
    Oct 10 '16 at 9:02
  • I would probably have been better giving an example where 'all' is not used as a premodifier, like 'All advice is given with complete impartiality.' Oct 10 '16 at 9:08

All X do Y can be used as a shortcut for

  • "in general, all possible instances of X do Y" or
  • "in general, when something has or is X, then Y happens or is true"

if X is noun expressing a state or quality.

Disease here is being used as a noun referring to a state or quality, rather than referring to an illness. It's not often used this way, but is possible. Disease is related to ease, and it's logical for your gut to be in a state of dis-ease if you are ill.

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