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The teams were all square at half-time.

I found this sentence on the internet.

Do we need 'all' here? 'square' here means 'a tie score'.

What does the 'all' refer to? teams or it is just an intensifier?

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  • How many teams are there? "all" is more relevant with more than 2.
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 10:28
  • @StuartF - it's a set phrase, like 'all right'. If I owe you a sum, and I pay it, we are all square. If we both owe a third person money, and we pay them, then we are all square too. Commented May 16, 2023 at 11:38

2 Answers 2

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"All square" is an idiomatic fixed phrase used as an adjective, meaning 'mutually clear of all debts or obligations', or of contestants or teams in sports, having equal scores.

Idiomatic expressions are a type of informal language that have a meaning different from the meaning of the words in the expression.

You buy me a meal costing $10. Next day, I buy you a book costing $10. We are all square (I owe you nothing, and you owe me nothing).

At half time in a match, team A has scored 5 goals, and team B has scored 5 goals. They are all square.

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    But one meaning of square is "even, tied", so you could just say they're square. Either is fine.
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 10:29
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    "We're all even", "everything is all settled", "it's all good", etc. And as @StuartF notes, "all" isn't even required in any of those phrases. The construction seems to me to be more mutable than fixed. Commented May 16, 2023 at 17:19
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"All" is an intensifier meaning "completely", and it modifies the adjective "square". It's very common to use "all" like this, possibly more common than not using "all" in that context.

So no, we don't need "all".

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