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I would like to ask a question regarding the use of all. I found the following sentence over Duolingo French cource:

Est-ce que tu as tout rendu ?

The translation is the following:

Did you return everything?

While I know the translation is better, my answer Did you return all? got rejected. Now I wonder if it is a correct English or just that Duolingo fails to add it.

At least the following is fine:

Did you return it all?

But how about the case of all as an independent noun?

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In English, we do not use "all" as an independent noun unless we have previously established a subject, in which case it isn't strictly independent.

For example, the following sentence...

All my family agreed to pay for their own meal.

...could also be written as:

My family met for a meal, and all agreed to pay for their own.

Although the word "all" stands apart from the word "family" in the sentence it is clear that it refers to all members of your family. It could also be split into different sentences, but this is the only way we would say use "all" without immediately qualifying by saying "all of the..."

Your translation of your original French sentence is correct because there is no subject in the original, and that is incorrect in English. Instead we say "everything" which is a compound of "every" and "thing" - "thing" being the subject.

Regarding your other options:

Did you return it all?

This is fine, but "it" could only refer to a single item or a collectable noun. If you were referring to many items you would say:

Did you return them all?

OR

Did you return all of them?

  • Thanks. If it refers to a single item why can it be used with all, which I think can't refer to a single item. Do you know some examples that it all refers to a single item? And as to a collectable noun, they are nouns like water, hair, or furniture, right? – Blaszard Jan 25 at 12:28
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    Excellent observation about all and independent nouns. One small quibble - “Did you return it all?” is grammatical. Consider the following as context: 1. “None of the food was any good” (it = food, uncountable) 2. “The shipment of clothes was mouldy” (it = shipment, collective noun) 3. “He sent five boxes with no matching lids” (it = five boxes, plural, though arguably ‘it’ could refer to the implicit collection of boxes, or perhaps even the word ‘all’). All 3 examples could be followed by “Did you return it all?” – Lawrence Jan 25 at 13:43
  • @Lawrence Thanks for the compliment. Regarding "Did you return it all?", I agree it is grammatical. I believe my answer says it is "fine" but notes that "it" would be used for a single item or collective noun (such as "the food", meaning all of the individual food items). I thought this was relevant given that the question is about "all" or "everything". I disagree with your 3rd example - if you have counted the boxes then you should say "them all". "Boxes" is the plural of box, not a collective noun. – Astralbee Jan 25 at 13:47

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