Video (starting at 0 min. 22 sec.): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnAXKuX1Q-c#t=0m22s

Transcript for that section:

There is many a theory about the traveling stones including a few that involve aliens. Ice was the most popular idea for quite some time, and the guess was that the stones got trapped in it and the whole sheet moved, rock and all.

What really happens is the rock does indeed get frozen in the ice, but eventually the ice on the outer edges melt. The lightened stone and ice combo are then pushed effortlessly along by the wind, leaving a furrow behind them.

First of all, I don't quite understand how rock and all is connected to the rest of the sentence and what he's trying to say. The sheet and the rock and everything else is moved? Then where's the article?

Second. Is the subject the lightened stone and ice combo plural? If so, then it's not completely clear what he means by ice combo if we should think of it as a separate thing. But to me, it sounds like lightened stone and ice must be an adjective that's describing the combo. If so, then we must use is instead of are. It's kind of confusing.

Also, I believe there's a mistake in the script that he's reading. It should be melts.

  • I would probably use melts instead of melt, too. Many verbs lose their s, though, when they follow a plural noun (in this case, edges). It's an funny grammatical faux pas in that the grammatically correct version sometimes sounds more odd to the ear. A similar example would be the data are vs the data is. The former may be more technically correct, but the latter is often used.
    – J.R.
    Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 9:12
  • @CookieMonster I clicked on your link and in the text under the video, it's really melts. (I can't hear the s after melt, just like you, though.) About the whole sheet moved, rock and all, "rock and all" are things in the sheet, and rock is uncountable here. I'm not absolutely sure about the last one, but I think when we speak casually, we can read this combo in the lightened stone and ice combo as together (so they together are plural). Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 9:58
  • To Damkerng T. It looks like the subject of that clause is "the whole sheet". The predicate part is "moved". I still don't understand how "rock and all" is related to the subject and the predicate. Though, of course, I perfectly understand what the phrase means by itself - rock and everything about it. Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 10:18
  • I'm not sure what the best way to analyze this formally would be. Informally, I think we can think of this as an afterthought. For example, I think you're familiar with this pattern: "Have you heard that Jim left us for a new job in New York?" "Jim, the senior sales executive?" "Yes." Now, compare: "Jim left us for a new job in New York. A good man." And when we are very casual, it's very easy to write "a good man" as part of the main sentence, like your "rock and all" in your transcript. Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 10:41
  • (cont.) More complex cases could be found in writing, too. For example, I ran into this sentence on our site earlier today: Rocks paintings of harp-like instruments have been found in France that date back to 15,000 BC. Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 10:42

2 Answers 2


I think there is more to understand about these questions than others have alluded to:

Question 1

First, why would someone say "and all" instead of listing out the items. The "and all" construction is associated with pointing out unexpected elements of the list. For instance, saying

The whole sheet moved, rock and all

is good because rock is an unusual thing to move (in this context of big rocks). Similarly, bones are an unusual thing to eat:

The cat ate the fish, bones and all

However, the following sentence is strange:

The boy ate the chicken, meat and all

This is because it's not unusual to eat the meat of a chicken. That is usually what one eats. This sort of comment is usually tagged on to the end of the sentence to emphasize a point. In the example sentence, it is unusual to consider gigantic rocks sliding across the ground, so the speaker is putting emphasis on that fact.

As to why there is no article, this is a difficult question. It seems to have to do with this construction specifically, but also something to do with mass/count nouns and definiteness. It is important to note, however, that determiners can appear in this context, including this context:

The whole sheet moved, the rock and all

As well as others:

The orchestra played the piece perfectly, a didgeridoo and all.

The meaning is very similar. As to why it is optional, the best I can say is that is that is an exception to the rule involving this construction.

Question 2

English number (singular/plural) is very complex and has a lot of strange exceptions. I personally feel that the speaker was correct in using "are". However, why this is correct is not coming to me now. I believe it has something to do with the word "combo" and that these nouns are mass nouns. In any case, it would also be correct to say is, so if that is easier to remember, remember that.

See Google's Ngram results for "combo is" and "combo are" to see that while "combo is" is significantly more common in the last two hundred years of Google's data, "combo are" still shows up, with increasing regularity over the past 10 years or so.

  • For Q2, it's singular because the subject of the sentence is "combo," which is singular. What kind of combo is irrelevant, but is described for clarity. If you remove "rock and ice" you're left with: "the combo [is/are] pushed along." Only "is" would be correct here because "combination" is a singular noun (even though by definition it must inherently consist of multiple components).
    – mc01
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 15:38
  • @mc01 -- yes, "the combo are good" is definitely ungrammatical. Looking at the Google n-gram results for "the combo are" backs that up. However, my native speaker intuition tells me that this example is good -- and as a linguist I think it has to do with compounds. The data speaks for itself: look at the ngram data.
    – dantiston
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 16:56

The guess was that the stones got trapped in [the sheet of ice] and the whole sheet moved, rock and all.

"All" refers to the complete group: the ice, the rock, and anything else frozen in the sheet. "The rock" is the one identified/relevant clump of stuff included in the larger whole. There's no article because it's sort of like shorthand for a list of unspecified items.

The ice sheet moved everything - the rocks, the trees, and the dirt.

The ice sheet moved everything - rocks and all (the other things not listed).

This pattern, "...and all" is used to describe a complete group or collection of related nouns without having to specify each one. The single given example may be the most obvious, relevant, or important. The "and all" indicates that it's not the only thing involved. Other items are involved too, but are not as relevant to the sentence, or there are too many to list.

The cat swallowed the fish whole, bones and all.

The flood wiped away the town, houses and all.

"And all" in a related sense also pops up a lot in "The Catcher in the Rye," in statements by the teenaged main character Holden Caulfield. He says "and all" as a way to lump together vaguely related ideas in the same way a modern teen might say "and stuff/whatever."

That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.

This is his way of saying "Here's this one main idea, but there could be others I haven't really thought through or don't feel like going into detail about."

Here is a link to the entry for "...and all" in Wiktionary, which succinctly describes the two meanings explained above.

To the 2nd part of the question...

The lightened stone and ice combo

Your assumption is correct - the author is referring to the combination of ice and rock. This would be singular and should use "is" instead of "are."

The combo of ice and rock is pushed along.

The word "lightened" here indicates a misunderstanding of basic physics :) The rock & ice aren't any "lighter" - they still weigh exactly the same as before. The reason they move is because the melting ice makes the ground slippery, reducing friction. Less friction means the rocks & ice move more freely across the ground when the wind applies a force to them.

  • Thanks Egghead99 for the link - I didn't even look think to look there. Funny they give the cat & fish example too :) I guess it works...
    – mc01
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 17:46
  • Haha, as they say, great minds think alike. Or the internet just really likes cats.
    – Egghead99
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 3:27

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