Is it okay to say All is free to mean Everything is free ? When should we avoid using verb be after all ?

EDIT for clarification:

The sentence is from a French learning website. The original sentence was Tout est gratuit without a context. I was asked to translate this single sentence into English. All is free was not accepted. According to the website the correct translation is Everything is free.

Here the word free means no payment required.

  • 1
    can you give more context. Where were you when you said this? Do you mean "free" in the sense of "gratis" or "at liberty" Can you give an example of "All is ...." which you know is good idiomatic English, because you can find examples of it in use?
    – James K
    Aug 13, 2021 at 23:08
  • @JamesK Question updated.
    – Xfce4
    Aug 14, 2021 at 18:37
  • No, it is not idiomatic in English for the French: Tout est gratuit. Why are you translating into English if you are not an English speaker? Everything here is free. There's no charge for anything on this website.
    – Lambie
    Aug 14, 2021 at 18:53
  • @Lambie Which one exactly is not idiomatic in English for the French Tout est gratuit ? Because you wrote Everything here is ....
    – Xfce4
    Aug 14, 2021 at 19:02
  • The here makes all the difference and that's why only native speakers should translate into their native language from a source language. Not knowing when to use all and everything is a red flag.
    – Lambie
    Aug 14, 2021 at 19:04

1 Answer 1


Saying "all is free" is not really idiomatic English. The reason for this is because "all" is generally used as a modifier for some other noun which comes after it, so people would normally say "all (somethings) are free", etc.

"All" can be used as a noun by itself, but generally only in one of two scenarios:

  • You have previously referred to some group of things, and "all" is being used as an abbreviation for "all of them". (In this case, there is no previous set of things to be referred to)
  • It can sometimes be used to mean "all people", but this is a somewhat less common usage that usually has a more dramatic or literary feel to it.

But in general it is much more natural most of the time to say "everything" when what you need is a noun, instead of "all".

  • Silent night, holy night; All is calm, all is bright. All is well. Those are all examples of all "as a noun".
    – Lambie
    Aug 14, 2021 at 20:47
  • @Lambie well, I did actually say "generally". I never claimed it was an absolute rule. Also, it's worth noting that the "Silent night" example is actually from song lyrics, which are often not reflective of normal ways of speaking, and "all is well" is an idiomatic phrase, not an example of generalized usage. In both cases, they come from rather old and antiquated ways of speaking which do not really represent common modern English usage, IMHO.
    – Foogod
    Aug 15, 2021 at 20:35

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