I know everything.

They know all of their pen pals./ They know all the fathers of the family here.

I think "everything" is an indefinite pronoun, and "all" is also an indefinite pronoun, so what makes in grammar that one is always used with a nominal group, and the other one doesn't accept a nominal group.

What are the different categories of indefinite pronouns in grammar, and what are the linguistic concepts making them used with a different grammar structure? Like it's the case here with "all" and "everything"? Being from the same grammatical group, what makes their difference in the linguistic theory?

(This is a grammar question, not about word usage of "everything"/"all".)

  • 4
    You're starting out on the wrong track. "All" is a determinative, not a pronoun, and "everything" is a compound determinative, not a pronoun. In case you're not familiar with the tern, "determinative' is a word category (part of speech).
    – BillJ
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 13:09
  • 2
    @BillJ: Wikipedia lists both words, so this is clearly not an isolated misconception. Commented May 8, 2017 at 13:27
  • 3
    @BillJ You might take a look at this paper. It's making me reconsider my adherence to the CGEL 'fused-head' model in ways I'm frankly not at all comfortable with--which is usually a sign that the authors are on to something! :) Commented May 8, 2017 at 14:40
  • @StoneyB I'll take a look.
    – BillJ
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 18:04

1 Answer 1


All and Everything can either act as an indefinite pronoun or an indefinite determiner.


  1. All good books are expensive. - Here "all" acts as an indefinite determiner.
  2. All are healthy. - Here "all" acts as an indefinite pronoun.

We can use "all" alone as a pronoun in formal situations. Usually, "all" as a pronoun is premodified or postmodified.

"All" can also act as a predeterminer and comes before articles, possessives, demonstratives and numbers (such as 'the', 'my', 'this', 'one' or 'his'):

  1. All the children were playing.

When "all" refers to a whole class of people or things, we don’t use articles, possessives, demonstratives or numbers:

  1. All children are born naked.

We don’t use articles, possessives, demonstratives or numbers with time expressions such as 'all day', 'all night', 'all week', 'all year', 'all summer':

  1. I spent all day looking for my car keys.

We use all of before personal pronouns (us, them), demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these, those) and relative pronouns (whom, which). The personal pronoun is in the object form. With demonstratives (this, that, these, those) we can say all of or all without of. We often use of after all in definite noun phrases (i.e. before the, possessives and demonstratives), but it is not obligatory:

  1. He bought ice-cream for all of us.
  2. All (of) these books are old.
  3. All (of) the computers in this room have an Intel chipset.

A pronoun can be thought of as replacing a noun phrase, while a determiner introduces a noun phrase and precedes any adjectives that modify the noun.

As Wikipedia says:

A determiner, also called determinative (abbreviated det), is a word, phrase, or affix that occurs together with a noun or noun phrase and serves to express the reference of that noun or noun phrase in the context. That is, a determiner may indicate whether the noun is referring to a definite or indefinite element of a class, to a closer or more distant element, to an element belonging to a specified person or thing, to a particular number or quantity, etc.

Determiners have two main functions: referring and quantifying.

Examples of using "Everything" as a determiner and a pronoun:

  • I have everything in my life. - an indefinite pronoun.
  • Everything good will come to you if you ask for it. - an indefinite determiner.

Both "all" and "everything" as indefinite pronouns:

  • I couldn't tell her everything she wanted.
  • I couldn't tell her all she wanted.

As "everything" means "all things" we can use it in such examples:

  • "Everything beautiful comes from the heart."
  • "All beautiful things come from the heart."

Cambridge Grammar

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