"All the money in the world " , in this sentence we talk about money in general , right ? I've read a book that says if we're talking about things in general we do not use "the". So why "the money" ?


7 Answers 7


This sentence is not talking about money in general. It is talking about a specific set: "all the money in the world", as if it was a specific quantity you could receive:

Suppose I gave you a box with all the money in the world. How would you choose to distribute it?

Other examples talking about a specific set of money:

Do you still have the money I gave you for your birthday?

The money donated to charities should be included on your tax forms, if you want to take the deduction.

It is possible to talk about money as a concept, in which case you would not use the definite article. Examples of this:

I don't care too much for money, and money can't buy me love -- John Lennon / Paul McCartney

A wise person should have money in their head, but not in their heart. --Jonathan Swift

Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant. --P.T. Barnum

It is possible to say "all money in the world" to reference the global concept of money, rather than a specific quantity.

All money in the world, in whatever form, relies on the collective agreement that it is worth something. Even a brick of gold has no value to a starving man, unless he can exchange it for food.

[Edit] With regard to FumbleFinger's objection: I would claim "money donated to charities" is either a kind of ellipsis, or else refers to a conceptual subset of the concept of money. In my example, it makes little difference whether I'm talking in general about the practice of donating money, or of a specific instance of some quantity donated. The second half of the sentence applies either way.

Conceptual example: Money (which has been generally) donated to charities should be declared.

Ellipsis example: (The specific quantity of) Money (which you have) donated to charities should be declared.

I think a more in-depth exploration is out of the scope of the question, as OP asks only what the definite article means in this context, and not whether the definite article is required.

  • All [the] water on earth originally came from comets. That may not be a true statement, but it's syntactically fine with or without the article - or with all of the water, come to that. So I don't really see how your talking about a specific set point really "explains" anything here. Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 17:42
  • @FumbleFingers I've edited to try and explain the distinction.
    – Andrew
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 18:18
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    @isac please take note of my edits. It is possible to omit the definite article, but this changes the meaning.
    – Andrew
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 18:18
  • I've cancelled earlier downvote, but still can't see sufficient reason to upvote. I couldn't bring myself to accept article-less Suppose I gave you a box with all money in the world, but there's nothing wrong with Money donated to charities should be included on your tax forms. And in a context such as I still have [the] money [that] I earned when I last had a job, I can't really see that including the article or not makes any difference at all to the meaning - it certainly doesn't seem to be a matter of whether or not "money" represents a "concept". Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 18:37
  • @FumbleFingers edited again. I think we're starting to get well above the scope of this question (and out of my depth), and it might be better posed to ELU to get a truly complete answer.
    – Andrew
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 19:28

You have misunderstood what was meant in that book by "in general".

In this sentence, we are speaking of money and water in general terms:

Money is an alternative to barter.

Water is necessary for life.

But here, even though we are speaking of "all", we're still speaking of the thing in particular:

All the water in the watering hole dries up during the summer dry season.

All the money in the world couldn't get me to do that.

  • Per comment to @Andrew's answer, and noting that even All water in the watering hole dries up during the summer dry season is "more or less" okay without the article, it's not obvious to me that there's a "complete" explanation here. Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 17:47
  • @FumbleFingers: You wouldn't say "I drank all water in the glass." But you might say "I siphoned all water from the tank" and "All water in the beaker evaporates when you place it over the bunsen burner". Since you bring it up, care to explain why?
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 17:55
  • I don't think I know how to explain why - but I kinda assumed you would, if you could be so motivated. Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 18:24
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    @FumbleFingers: I lack (the) motivation. :) But all is a shape-shifter.
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 19:01
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    @Alexander Kosubek: And you would be wrong to use the article. The money is an alternative to the barter is not grammatical in English.
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 10:55

I don't know what book told you that, but it's not the truth.1

Fact is, there are several reasons we might use the definite article. Macmillan (definition 1b) says:

used when you are referring to familiar things that people deal with regularly

I looked up at the ceiling; suddenly all the lights went out

Many familiar adages and expressions use the definite article even though they talk about things in general. Consider:

  • The lion is king of the jungle.
  • Top of the morning to you!
  • It hit me right between the eyes.
  • Religion is the opiate of the masses.
  • All the news that's fit to print.

1See what I did there?


Ditto Andrew's excellent answer, let me just add:

Don't get confused by the difference between how something is in the real world, and how it is grammatically.

Yes, in real life, "all the money in the world" is, well, all the money that exists. Logically, you might say that it's the same as "money" as a general concept. But GRAMMATICALLY, "all the money in the world" is NOT all money that exists, it's a specific set of money, namely, the money that is "in the world". While in real life that may be all money, grammatically it is not.


The big, fancy language scholar term for this particular use of the definite article, "the", is "modadic"—the as in the one and only.

From your example, rephrased:

There is only one collection of all money in the one and only world.


8. Monadic

("One of a Kind" or "Unique")

The Article

  • I'm gonna upvote this one purely because you didn't include the "optional" article in There is only one collection of all the money in the one and only world, even though you didn't specifically draw attention to that yourself! Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 17:54
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    I'm so glad you noticed that! I was mindful of not wanting to use a circular definition with the first "one", with the one and only "the" being qualified enough not to be. ;-)
    – Jesse
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 17:58

All the money in the world would not make you happy.

We only have one specific world, and all the money in it is very specific.

Having money in the bank is a good thing, if its yours. [non-specific]

And: The money I have in the bank is none of your business. [specific]

Please note: for certain expressions such as money in the bank, a the is used with bank.


There is a word elided which will make parsing the phrase easier:

All of the money in the world

"Of money" is wrong for different reasons -- the preposition requires more than just a bare noun.

  • This is the point I was hoping to see. As with most English, we've munged it up so it doesn't follow our own quidelines by omitting a word. Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 16:10

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