Dr. Jones is examining Alex. He has a bad stomachache.

Dr. Jones: Good morning. What's the problem?
Alex: I have a terrible stomachache, doctor.
Dr. Jones: I see. When did it start?
Alex: It all started last night.

What part of speech is all: a pronoun, an adverb, or a determiner? And what does it mean in this context?

  • 1
    I would say it's an adjective, modifying "it" to let us know that "[Everything] started last night." Jan 25, 2017 at 8:07
  • 1
    I take "it all" to be a compound pronoun: the two parts are inseparable, and function as subject of the sentence. The meaning can be glossed as "the problem in its entirety started last night".
    – BillJ
    Jan 25, 2017 at 9:14
  • It all started last night = Everything started last night. Mar 31, 2022 at 9:18

2 Answers 2


It all started last night.

In here all is a Quantificational Adjunct. Reason?

  • If we insert an auxiliary verb, like an adjunct it preferably follows the auxiliary verb.

It had all started last night.

  • we can replace it with any other Noun Phrase (NP).

The pain all started last night.

N.B- This construction to be distinguished from the they all, we both etc. In OP's sentence it all is not a compound pronoun.

For more information please refer to The Cambridge Grammar of The English Language by Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum: page no. 427-428


It simply means all things related to the subject under discussion. In this context it could mean that there are other symptoms related to the stomach ache, such as sickness.

This is a fairly common way of introducing relevant information, especially when someone wants to establish a particular starting point for a series of related events.

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