This is a story about a fish called Bernard who lives in the river with his brothers and sisters. The speaker says:

"...Every day they all huddle together, all that is, except for Bernard." Come outside: Fish (1995) (see:9:30-9:35)

The expression "...all that is ...." caught my attention. From the context, I assume it means "all of them", but then if "all that" means "all of them", why is there an "is"?

I am confused, so want to ask:

1- What function does "all that is" serve here?

2- Why not omit "all that is" and simply say "....they all huddle together except for Bernard."? Wouldn't this be enough to create the same meaning?

  • 3
    There should be a parenthetical comma before and after 'that is'. Those two words are inserted for clarification. You can remove them without changing the meaning very much. Commented Mar 10 at 16:26
  • @MichaelHarvey, I put the comma. Thanks for the comment. By the way, does "all that" mean "all of them"?
    – Yunus
    Commented Mar 10 at 16:35
  • 3
    all that does not occur in the sentence as a constituent: As MIchael said "that is" is a parenthetical phrase. Without it, it read all except for Bernard.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Mar 10 at 17:09
  • You need two commas: one before the phrase 'that is', and one comma after it, as I wrote. Every day they all huddle together, all, that is, except for Bernard. Commented Mar 10 at 19:07
  • @MichaelHarvey, Ahhh yes, I got it now. And I even have figured out the meaning, too. Those two commas have helped me to figure out the meaning of the sentence clearly. As you can see, without the commas, in the beginning, I thought "all that is" were together, which was what confused me, because it didn't mean anything. Now I understand, "all" and "that is" were seperate parts of the sentence, and when I think about them seperately, everything snaps. Thanks again Michael. I am jubilant when I figured out something new in the English Language.
    – Yunus
    Commented Mar 10 at 19:20

3 Answers 3


The author is qualifying the term all, but not retracting it. The word all could have surround-quotes:

We all like ice cream -- "all", that is, except for Bernard, who is lactose-intolerant.

Another version of the same idea would be:

We all like ice cream -- all, I should say, but Bernard, who is lactose-intolerant.


The sentence has an error. There should be a comma after "all". "Every day they all huddle together. All, that is, except for Bernard."

"That is" is a parenthetical phase modifying "all". It tells the reader that we are about to limit or qualify something. It could be left out without changing the meaning off the sentence. "All except for Bernard."

"That is" is often used to introduce some explanation. Like, "Jack is very tall. That is, he is over 6 feet", or "This story is very exciting. That is, it has a lot of action and adventure."


I think in the sentence "Every day they all huddle together, all that is, except for Bernard," the phrase "all that is" serves as a way to clarify or emphasize that the statement applies to everyone or everything mentioned previously, with a specified exception. Here, it means that everyone in the group participates in the activity of huddling together every day, except for the individual named Bernard. The phrase is used to draw attention to the exception to the general rule or situation that has been described.

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