I read a similar post about it, and I understand the general rule:

I took all the apples that were in the basket. (not all the apples in the world.)

All apples have seeds. (In the world)

But I still have some doubts regarding the following case. Let's say I'm writing about a group of people having a conference in a room, and, at some point, something happens that grabs the attention of all (the) attendees.

Can I say:

All attendees turned their faces to see what was happening.

This definitely doesn't sound like all attendees in the world, but those at that conference only.

So, my questions are:

  1. Which is correct in this case: all the attendees or all attendees?
  2. Is all attendees correct (in case it is) because it is obvious from the context?
  3. If all the attendees is correct, do I also have to add in the same sentence that were at the conference (like the example of the apples; that were in the basket), or can I just leave it, so as to avoid repeating every time?

1 Answer 1


Yes, you can say "all attendees" if it is clear from context that the reference is to a particular group. If that is the case, there is no need to specify the group explcitly. As a matter of style, however, it may be preferable to say "all the attendees" if you are not specifying the group.

All attendees at the meeting looked up in surprise


All attending the meeting looked up in surprise


All the attendees at the meeting looked up in surprise

are all grammatical and idiomatic.

If, however, the context makes clear that we are talking about those at a specific meeting

All attending looked up in surprise


All the attendees looked up in surprise


All attendees looked up in surprise

are also grammatical and idiomatic. Nevertheless, the first is clearest at limiting what "all" refers to. The second is almost as clear because the definite article means that some specific group is being referred to. The third is most likely to cause possible confusion. Therefore, as a matter of style, I generally prefer the first two options. But if the context is crystal clear, then all three are equally good even as a matter of style.

For example, if a school's principal writes a memo to the school's teachers that says

All students must attend the assembly next Wednesday

it clearly means all the students registered at that school and present on the day specified. It does not mean that all students in France, India, and China are to be in that school's auditorium or that a student registered at that specific school but hospitalized for viral pneumonia is expected to come infect other students.

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