I heard Pythagoras's this saying in Korean several times before but I didn't know actual English sentence was "All is number".

Does this 'All' used as a noun? (but some dictionaries don't list noun form meaning)

Just a poetic writing meaning "Everything is number"?

  • The original would have been in Ancient Greek, not English. You may be better off trying to locate the Greek text for a better understanding of what he was trying to say than to use a translation of a translation.
    – Chenmunka
    Mar 6, 2015 at 15:46

2 Answers 2


Yes, "All" is used as a noun here. It's a poetic way to say "Everything can be represented by numbers", and it sounds very strange (even incorrect) in modern English. If we were trying to say that today (not in 500BC) we might say "Everything is numerical" or "Everything is quantifiable".

  • 1
    Personally, I'd say "Everything is numerical" and "Everything is quantifiable" are both a bit more "poetical, hi-falutin'" than what I think would be more common in ordinary speech - "Numbers are everything". Mar 6, 2015 at 16:11
  • True "numbers are everything" is more ordinary. But I was imagining how it might be better translated into modern English as a motto or a slogan for a movement.
    – msulis
    Mar 6, 2015 at 16:24
  • 1
    With apologies to Red Sanders, it might be translated like this: "Numbers aren't everything - they are the only thing."
    – Adam
    Mar 6, 2015 at 16:59

"all" + noun is a quantifying adjective, and "all" without noun is an indefinite pronoun, but it is no noun. "all" can also be used as adverb as in "all wet".

  • 2
    "All Is Lost! We are undone!". If it looks, walks, and quacks like a noun, and serves as the subject of a verb like a noun, my inclination would be to say it is a noun. Mar 6, 2015 at 16:33
  • @FumbleFingers CGEL calls it a fused-head determiner, meaning an ordinary determiner which has merged with the (unspecified) nominal which it determines. Mar 6, 2015 at 16:37
  • @StoneyB: Ah well. You (or someone like John Lawler) would probably tell me that I'm being simplistic if I understand NP as meaning noun (expressed in one or more words). But I infer from NPs that lack a head noun are entirely restricted to cases analysed by CGEL as function fusion of Head with Determiner or Modifier that all in this context is an NP (and therefore a "noun") even if it can also be more accurately identified as a specific named subcategory thereof. Mar 6, 2015 at 17:07
  • 1
    With apologies… but my head is now telling me that the answer to the question, "What's inside that delicious-looking spring roll?" …is... "All is duck" Mar 6, 2015 at 18:17

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