I am a bit confused as to the difference - some use the definite article, some do not:

-All water on Earth will evaporate in a billion years.
-Not all water is composed of the same substances.
-All the water on Earth would fit into a sphere 860 miles (1,385 km) wide.
-Of course, the source of all water is precipitation, the downward arrows coming down from the top in the diagram.

  • All the water could imply limitation of the sphere, or geographical areas such as oceans, seas, lakes, creeks, etc. The article is therefore definite.
    – Alex TheBN
    Jul 2, 2020 at 14:25

2 Answers 2


This is a great question, and one of the reasons why speaking really good English is very complex and nuanced. Let's look at them one at a time:

"All water on Earth..." could have been 'All the water on the Earth' and no one would have batted an eye. But the first sounds more awesome... more like the announcer was really impressed.

"Not all water" this cannot have a definite article (the) because there is nothing definite about it. It is not speaking of water anywhere in particular, but water in general.

"All the water on Earth..." could have been 'all the water on the Earth" but not really 'all water on Earth'... since it is talking about the water that exists right now on Earth, a definite amount.

"The source of all water..." cannot be 'the source of all the water..." since it is not a definite kind of water, it is not located in space. You could say, "The source of all the water..." but you would have to be locating it in space, as in, "The source of all the water in our swimming pool is the Colorado River. We had it shipped in specially." (Don't try that at home.)


The definite article in the construction having all as a predeterminer implies that a speaker and hearer are aware of the subject of the conversation which has been denoted before. A noun water means some specified water if it used as the water in the conversation. For the water in the third example, they mean the volume of the water that has been estimated by means of some, known to them, scientfic calculation. It necessary to take note of the difference between BrE and AmE usages. The structure all the is more common in BrE. The structure with the same meaning all of the is more common in AmE.

Sometimes, the definite article in such a construction is the result of the context that is well known to each participant of the conversation.

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