" For all the EU’s flaws, she does not treat it as a punchbag, but rather as a pillar of peace and prosperity."

This sentence is extracted from the economist, and the link is attached below.

I cannot understand whether "it" refers to "all" or "flaws". If it refers to "flaws", why not use “them”. I remember that my teacher told me when there is an "all", whether using a single verb or a plural verb depends on the following word of "all" which, in this case, is "flaws". If it refers to "all", could you please tell my the reason?

Another question is what the meaning of the metaphor of "punchbag" here? Why flaws can be treated as a punchbag? Does it mean Merkel didn't treat the metaphor as a difficulty?

This is the whole paragraph:

Her personal qualities count for much, too. She has defended Germany’s interests without losing sight of Europe’s; she has risked German money to save the euro, while keeping sceptical Germans onside; and she has earned the respect of her fellow leaders even after bruising fights with them. Most impressively (and alone among centre-right leaders in Europe), she has done this without pandering to anti-EU and anti-immigrant populists. For all the EU’s flaws, she does not treat it as a punchbag, but rather as a pillar of peace and prosperity.

The link of the artical is http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21677643-angela-merkel-faces-her-most-serious-political-challenge-yet-europe-needs-her-more

  • 1
    My guess (without reading more of the context) is that "it" is the EU. Either that or "it" is It.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 14 '15 at 8:50

"It" is a "pronoun" which is defined as:

grammar : a word (such as I, he, she, you, it, we, or they ) that is used instead of a noun or noun phrase


In "for all the EU’s flaws":

  1. All is a determiner and adjective and "it" can't refer to an adjective.
  2. flaws are in plural and "it" can't refer to a plural noun. Only they can refer to it. (Sometimes they could refer to a singular noun, but it is not the case here.)
  3. The only word "it" can refer to is "EU" and a "punchbag" could only refer to a person or (sometimes) an organization.

A person on whom another person vents their anger: all I would be was a punchbag for his escaping fury.

[Oxford Online Dictionary]


"I cannot understand whether "it" refers to "all" or "flaws"." It refers to the EU.

Once you know that the other questions are not an issue.

  • Thank you for the help. "it" is a noun. Can "it" refer to an adjective word?
    – IvyChou
    Nov 14 '15 at 8:33
  • 2
    @IvyChou - It's no different from "For all Fred’s flaws, she does not treat him as a punchbag".
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 14 '15 at 8:53

"It" refers to "EU".

The Oxford online dictionary defines "punchbag" in the sense it is used in your example as 'A person on whom another person vents their anger', but I think you can safely extend that to "... a person or thing ..."

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