Why "the" in "he had all the vices" in the sentence:
"Indeed he had all the vices save one - he never drank."
from book "Titan" by Ron Chernow.

  • 2
    Have you looked up "the vices"? Try Christianity and vices.
    – Lambie
    Feb 6, 2020 at 21:17

1 Answer 1


It's very common to use the article "the" with the phrase "all the ___".

  • "Pick up all the books."
  • "All the stores are closed."

This implies a finite concrete list of objects.

Next, what if the article is absent?

  • "All swans are white."
  • "All businesses must register with the department."

It's more abstract, not referring to a specific concrete list but also to future and imaginary cases... to "everything".

In the sentence it implies a known list of items (such as pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, sloth.)

The phrase "He had..." is about possession. You can't possess an abstraction.

"He had all the cards in his pocket." Ok.
"He had all cards in his pocket." No.

  • Excellent @Sam! Thank you.
    – b2ok
    Mar 8, 2020 at 20:01

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