I wonder what’s the grammatical function of “all” in the following sentence?

We all felt ill after the meal.”

All” can function as four different grammatical roles, I mean: adverb, determiner, predeteminer, and pronoun. But in the sentence it comes after a pronoun so it cannot be a determiner, predeterminer, or pronoun. So is it an adverb in the sentence?


2 Answers 2


The simplest way to parse this is to consider "we all" to a compound pronoun.

The two words have been brought together and now function as a single "word", although the spelling doesn't (yet) reflect this (y'all is sometimes seen for you all)

As such "all" isn't functioning on its own, but "we all" is functioning as a pronoun.

  • I guess this is also a "valid" way to categorise the collocation. But it doesn't cover We each agreed to participate. May 9, 2020 at 17:07
  • I think you're confusing it with the compound pronoun found in, for example, "They invited us all" / "she likes you all", where the two are inseparable. But in the OP's example they are separable, thus "all" is an adjunct in clause structure.
    – BillJ
    May 9, 2020 at 18:50

We all felt ill after the meal.

"All" belongs to the word class (part of speech) 'determinative'.

In your example, "all" is separable and not part of the subject NP but a quantificational adjunct in clause structure.

This is evident from the fact that when the verb is an auxiliary it preferentially follows rather than precedes it:

We had all felt ill after the meal.

Note also the possibility of inserting an adjunct after the pronoun:

We certainly all felt ill after the meal.

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