I am a bit confused about these two forms

For example :

John reads books all of the time/all the time

All the students/All of the students have participated in march against smoking in the campus

are they both correct? or it depends on the context?

3 Answers 3


Using my native-speaker intuition, it seems to me that using "all the" has a more informal connotation, while adding the "of" makes it sound a bit more formal. I don't have any grammar sources but I hope that helped.

  • Interesting, my intuition was the opposite. Especially the first example, "all of the time" sounds more informal. Jun 20 at 23:04

I'm not a native speaker so won't be able to comment what looks natural but...

The rule says...

Remember, as stated in Swan's PEU, we generally do not use all of if the noun has no determiner.

All children can be difficult NOT All of children can be difficult.

But then, we can use all or all of before a noun with or without determiner. In both of your examples, the noun time and students have the determiner 'the' and thus all or all of would work.

That said,

John reads books all of the time or John reads books all the time
All the students have ..... or All students have....


General grammar rule is:

  1. We must use "some, most, any, none" in this way: "Some of the + noun"
  2. We can use "all" in both ways: "All of the + noun" and "All the + noun"

So, both of your sentences are correct and it doesn't depend on context.

My reading experience shows that "all the" is more informal and sometimes expressive. You can find it in fiction books, for example. "All of the" is more formal. And, you can find it in official paperwork or some kind of official books.


Raymond Murphy, Essential Grammar in Use, 4th edition. Page 172.

  • Which grammar books? Which fiction books? Please provide links for your research.
    – fev
    Dec 12, 2020 at 17:19
  • Raymond Murphy, Essential Grammar in Use, 4th edition. Page 172. I said about fiction and official books in general, you can pick any. Dec 12, 2020 at 17:22
  • Also, you should use "What books" instead of "Which books". Word "which" is for cases when we choose among limited and observable amount of choices. Dec 12, 2020 at 17:24

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