Which of the following sentences is correct?

Sentence A : Why are you shouting so suddenly like that ?

Sentence B : Why are you shouting all of a sudden like that ?

Which one is correct? If both are correct, which one is more idiomatic?

  • 5
    This native speaker would probably say something more like "Why are you suddenly shouting like that?", but there's something odd about like that in conjunction with present continuous shouting. In most contexts it would seem more natural to use either "Why did you suddenly shout like that?" or "Why are you suddenly shouting?" (where in principle the second could be extended with "like this", but I wouldn't be likely to do so). Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 18:19
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    This non-native speaker imagines that the most likely utterance a native speaker would yell out when his or her friend is shouting would be something as simple as "Why are you shouting!" or even "Shut up!" :) Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 19:24
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    I think "so suddenly" and "all of a sudden" are both used; neither sounds particularly out-of-place. Although I would agree with @FumbleFingers in that I'd also ask "Why are you suddenly shouting?" there are times when the two phrases you ask about are used. If your real question is, are both "so suddenly" and "all of a sudden" in use, then the answer is yes.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 21:22
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    @FumbleFingers You've really never heard all of the sudden in contexts other than children's stories? In my region of the US, it's quite common. All of the sudden, she was struck by lightning. All of the sudden, out of nowhere, she started shouting at me. Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 22:41
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    @Fumble - I don't think that Google book count is a fair comparison, because it doesn't account for variants like "all of a sudden, you change your mind". Here's yet another interesting Ngram. I think all of a sudden is used enough that I wouldn't call it "outside the norm."
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 23:16

2 Answers 2


The comments on the question have been quite enlightening. I would've thought this a simpler question, so I'll risk posting the simple answer, but I owe credit to the commentators, so I'll make this a community wiki and encourage them to edit if they disagree with this answer as a summary.

Simple answer: Both are correct; Sentence B is more idiomatic.

Complex answer: see comments!

  • 1
    At the risk of despoiling this perfectly reasonable answer with a comment, I would just say that I would usually understand that "short answer" as implying native speakers usually use B. In reality neither of these exact utterances are particularly common for the context, but regarding the specific difference A:suddenly, B:all of a/the sudden, A is about 15 times more common than B. Commented Jan 18, 2014 at 22:52

There is something worth remarking about here first which is tangential, and that is this: we have a progressive action ("to be shouting") which is being combined with "suddenly".

Now, you cannot suddenly do something which is ongoing, or habitual.

Why are you shouting suddenly like that?

means that "You are showing a new behavior of shouting that may be ongoing or habitual from now on for some time. Why did you suddenly switch to this behavior?"

It is different from:

Why did you shout suddenly like that?

which only asks about the one time that the other person shouted, without assuming that shouting is going to be a persistent behavior.

An important point here is that the first sentence only makes sense if the speaker has a reason to believe that the shouting is a new mode of behavior that shows signs of continuing. The second sentence can be used even if an indefinite amount of time has passed since the other person last shouted.

Anyway, on to the topic:

"all of a sudden" and "suddenly" are not quite interchangeable. "suddenly" can replace "all of a sudden", but "all of a sudden" can only replace "suddenly" when "suddenly" is used as a word which introduces an entire clause. When suddenly is close to the verb, functioning as an adjective, then "all of a sudden" can be awkward. It depends on how it is positioned. If it can be introduced as a kind of parenthetical comment, then it works.

Why did you shout {suddenly | all of a sudden?} like that?

Why did you suddenly shout like that?

Why did you, all of a sudden, shout like that?

The second example is fine because "all of a sudden" isn't being forced to function as an adverb. It's a kind of comment, and in that area of language there is a lot of flexibility.

In the 1978 comedy movie High Anxiety there is a lovable character named Dr. Vicktor Lillolman (the name Lillolman being a word play on "little old man"). The elderly psychiatrist is obviously a non-native speaker of English, speaking with a German-like accent. One of the cute mistakes that he makes is to misuse "all of a sudden", when he speaks the following line in response to Dr. Thorndike:

Thorndike: Your predecessor, Dr. Ashley, hired me.

Lillolman: It's a shame he died so ... all of a sudden.

Lillolman pauses briefly trying to think of the right English word, and the obvious joke is that he is able to think of the awkwardly-fitting "all of sudden", yet it does not occur to him to use the obvious and correct adverb "suddenly" which is closely related to "all of a sudden".

  • You're slightly misunderstanding the progressive tenses. When you say, Why are you suddenly shouting [like that]? you're just asking why they've just begun shouting. That does not mean their shouting has ceased. They may or may not have heard you ask the question (i.e. they may or may not be shouting while you're talking). If you're conversing with someone, as we're doing here and now, are we both continuously talking? But we are/were talking, no? When you've got both American and British native speakers in agreement, that should tell you it's standard English. Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 4:19

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