1. All languages are interesting.
  2. Every language is interesting.

Don't they mean the same thing?

  • 1
    No. And hardly any, if any, two sentences that use different words mean exactly the same thing. And since language really refers to communication in context, most of the time two sentences with the same words will not mean exactly the same thing. – user6951 Oct 19 '14 at 18:10
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    @CarSmack It would be very useful, especially for the OP, if you could explain the difference! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 19 '14 at 18:13
  • You should add some additional context, otherwise this question is open to interpretation. – user3169 Oct 20 '14 at 1:40
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    There is no need to close this question. It has a straightforward answer as written. – snailplane Oct 20 '14 at 2:07
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    @corsiKa: name two. It's an interesting exercise. For a pair of words defined in a thesaurus as synonyms, it is usually possible to find a situation where one would be appropriate and the other not. Of course there are many contexts where one could be substituted for the other, else they wouldn't be listed as synonyms, but identifying the shades of meaning between them (or the additional meanings that one has and the other doesn't), and hence the contexts in which they are different, is instructive. – Steve Jessop Oct 20 '14 at 11:57

10 Answers 10


All and every are universal quantifiers. Two interpretations are possible, distributive and joint:

 1. All of the students lifted a piano onto the stage.

All allows distributive and joint interpretations:

  • Joint interpretation: The students were working together ("jointly") to lift a piano onto the stage.
  • Distributive interpretation: The students all separately lifted a piano onto the stage (perhaps one after another).

The distributive interpretation in this example is extremely unlikely. We would naturally understand example #1 with a joint interpretation, and we probably wouldn't even consider the alternative.

But every is a distributive quantifier and forces a distributive interpretation, as unlikely as it is:

 2. Every student lifted a piano onto the stage.

We can add one after another to this sentence, but not together. Because every forces a distributive interpretation, this sentence is rather unlikely.

In your example, the basic meaning is the same either way, because it doesn't matter much whether we're thinking about the languages together or individually:

 3. All languages are interesting.
 4. Every language is interesting.

But every requires distributive semantics. In example #4, we think of the predicate ("is interesting") as applying to each language separately. All does not require this, and example #3 can be thought of as applying to all languages taken as a whole.

Examples #1 and #2 are modified from The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, p.362. Note that each is more strongly distributive than every; for a detailed discussion, see chapter 4 of Susanne Lynn Tunstall's 1998 dissertation, The Interpretation of Quantifiers: Semantics & Processing.

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  • Hmm. I can see a reading of #2 where it has both joint and distributive interpretations... "Every child climbed a mountain" which strongly connotes the former (cf. "Every child had climbed a mountain", the latter). I'm not sure if that's all there is to it. – jimsug Oct 25 '14 at 10:28

Yes, the two are essentially the same. All and every both mean the greatest possible degree or amount.

Another example:

All these books are great.


Every one of these books are great.

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    Every one of X most often takes singular agreement: corpus.byu.edu/coca/?c=coca&q=33853669 – snailplane Oct 19 '14 at 22:30
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    E.g., "Every one of these books is great." – T.J. Crowder Oct 20 '14 at 8:59
  • I'd also say "All of these books are great", not "All these books are great". Not sure if it's absolutely mandatory. – Joe Oct 20 '14 at 20:21

Regarding the issue whether and which languages are interesting, both sentences say the same thing in my opinion. The difference is made only by the choice of "all" - a more general expression, possibly shifting the focus slightly on the fact that all languages have something in common, e.g. being a means of verbal communication - versus "every", which focuses more on the single items of a whole/a group.

And subjectively ... When I hear "All..." , I think there is room for another or an additional point to the joy of studying/speaking each particular one, which would be my impression when I hear the second phrase. "All" would probably come to my mind quicker, but I'd imagine it would be useful talking to someone who doesn't share my enthusiasm. It just conveys the idea. Using "every" makes this enthusiasm live a little more in the conversation :)

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  • + The second one feels stronger. But there's more to it than being stronger I guess. – learner Oct 20 '14 at 12:53

They mean the same to me.

All cats love the mat.

Every cat loves the mat.

There is no cat that does not love the mat.

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The first statement is called a Logic Tautology. It states a definition. Please see http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/584431/tautology. You may "define" that All languages are interesting. Or, languages = interesting as a formula.

In some sense it is an attempt to state a universal truth.

"Every language is interesting" implies a personal opinion, based on personal experience or beliefs. It is an answer to a question such as "Do you think languages are interesting?"

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'All' represents the 'collective' as 'All languages are interesting',

Where as 'Every' represents to 'single' as 'Each and every language is interesting'.

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No, they do not mean the same thing.
When you say:

All languages are interesting.

all is really a generalization. All the languages you know are interesting, but you might not know all of them.
all could also be understood as most in this context.

Every language is interesting.

every means each language that exists, whether you know about it or not.

Also, every would be used when you want to emphasize each and every language.

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    All the languages I know are interesting, so I can infer that all languages [that ever existed, whether dead or not, written or spoken] are interesting. I am still making a generalization, but I am referring to all languages, not just the ones I know. – user6951 Oct 19 '14 at 18:56
  • Hmm - don't understand. Why doesn't "every language" mean "every language that you know"? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 20 '14 at 0:15
  • @Araucaria The original question is open to interpretation without more context. – user3169 Oct 20 '14 at 1:37
  • I totally disagree: To me, "all" specifically includes those languages one does not know, as in "I find languages interesting (because I'm a linguist)". Hence, "all" refers to something languages in general have in common, whereas "every" relates more to the specifics of individual languages as in "every language has something interesting"; this may point into the direction of a statement about those languages the subject does know something about. – JimmyB Oct 20 '14 at 11:36

The two sentences can mean the same thing, or they could mean different things. It depends on the context. Instead of languages, though, I'm going to use candles. You'll see why in a minute.

Consider the sentence

Every candle is interesting.

This sentence clearly means that if you were to individually investigate every candle, you would find it to be interesting. So in the first sentence above, it's like going around a house and looking at each candle and finding them all to be interesting. With that in mind, consider the following sentences:

All candles in the house are interesting.

All candles are interesting.

So far, we're still basically on the same page.

Now for a moment, consider that while each candle might be interesting on its own, its interesting-value might depend on the candles around it. So while in the above examples we were going around the house, perhaps we found almost all of them to be interesting, but a couple to not be interesting. However, once we put all the candles from around the house on the table together, suddenly even the non-interesting candles become part of a very interesting candle collection.

All candles are interesting.

Now, to be taken in this context, this sentence desperately begs us to put the word the in it, i.e. all the candles are interesting, or perhaps all these candles are interesting. If there was to be a candidate meaning to make those two sentences be different, this would be it. And it may be technically correct: in this case, "all candles" is a single entity. Yet, because it appears pluralized, we still use "are" instead of "is". However, I think even if it is technically correct (which I'm not convinced it is, but may be) it would still confuse the beejeepers out of an English speaker and should be avoided.

I can't think of any other possible way the two sentences could mean different things, despite the drive-by comment to your question.

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No. I don't think they mean "exactly" the same.

  1. All languages are interesting. -All languages that are there as of now are interesting. May be in future there will be a new language which is not.

  2. Every language is interesting. - Every language is interesting. (generalized).

Had it been Every one of these languages , then it would have been the same.

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You generally wouldn't say All languages are interesting, instead you would say All of the languages are interesting.

All is used to refer to sets or collectives, and not multiple individual objects, consider this:

  • All [of the] items
  • Every item

Also All of the languages are interesting and Every language is interesting mean different things. The first can only mean the languages you have mentioned or previously considered (the set) are interesting, and don't refer to a language that is not apart of the subject.

Every language implies every language, period.

In short

  • All = 100% of 1 thing.
  • Every = 100% of all things.
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