I am wondering whether "all" and "both" mean exactly the same.

I always use "both" to refer to explicitly two things, like

Red and orange both are my favorite colors.

As for "all", I would only use it when the number of things is more than or equal to three, like

All China, Japan, Korea are Asian countries.

My friends told me that "both" and "all" have actually the same meaning, so could anyone give me some suggestions?

Thank you!

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    First, be aware that your second sentence is unidiomatic, not because you used "all" instead of "both", but because you used a word before "China" at all. Delete it and the sentence will become perfectly standard and idiomatic. Second: ignore your friends (unless they are native speakers, then ask them to clarify precisely what they're saying). All and both are not equivalent. As you say, both is strictly used for exactly 2 items, all is used for any number of items greater than 1 (and sometimes any number of items at all). Looking the words up in a solid dictionary should clarify. – Dan Bron Mar 1 '16 at 12:45
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    @DanBron thanks for that, how about " China, Japan and Korea are all Asian countries"? – Jay Wong Mar 1 '16 at 12:47
  • Yes, that works fine. Note that you could not substitute "both" for "all" in that sentence, precisely because you are talking about more than 2 counties. – Dan Bron Mar 1 '16 at 12:48
  • @DanBron Yes, I see the difference now. Thank you! – Jay Wong Mar 1 '16 at 12:50
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    What does your dictionary say about the two words? Which do you trust more, your dictionary or your friend? – user24743 Mar 1 '16 at 12:50

Both is used for exactly two items while 'all' is used for referring to more than one items, collectively.

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  • +1 because you make a valid point. However, you could improve your answer by providing a few examples to support it. That way, the answer appears a little more complete. Cheers ! – Varun Nair Mar 2 '16 at 11:40
  • Okay I will keep that in mind. – khushboo gupta Mar 2 '16 at 11:42
  • How do these sentences sound? "I have two sisters. They all live in Japan." – mangoyogurt Jan 30 '17 at 21:26

According to About Education and SAT Grammar, "both" is a set of paired conjunctions and can only be used to denote two different things in it's most basic form. It also has a specific structure due to idiomatic phrasing:

Both __ and __

____ and ___ are both ____ (more specific to these sentences)

This means that this is incorrect:

Red and orange both are my favorite colors.

The correct way of sentence is by following the sentence formula of "Both":

Both red and orange are my favorite colors. Red and orange are both my favorite colors

"All" is used to define more than one items in a list. It also has a specific word placement, meaning that this is incorrect:

All China, Japan, Korea are Asian countries.

"All" should be used in a specific way in a list:

China, Japan, and Korea are all Asian countries

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