"All" or "All Of"?

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
If you use "all of" before words like "us," "you," "it," "him," and "her" (i.e., personal pronouns), you will be correct. For example:
  • All of us
  • All of them
If you use "all" before nouns, you will be correct. For example:
  • All the cheese
  • All the soldiers
all or all of?

Using "All" and "All Of"

Writers are sometimes unsure whether to use "all" and "all of." If you're not interested in the grammar or the options, then the following general guideline will see you right.

General Guideline:

Use "all of" when the next word is a pronoun (e.g., us, you, it, him, her). For example:
  • All of us
  • All of you
  • All of it
Use "all" for normal nouns. For example:
  • All the soldiers
  • All the nurses
  • I need all the chairs.
  • All the miners returned safely.

The Grammar of "All"

"All" as a determiner preceding a noun:

When used by itself before a noun, the word "all" is classified as a determiner. For example:
  • all men
  • all the students
Using "all" as a determiner is preferable to using "all of" because it saves a word. (NB: Sometimes, the noun is preceded by "the." Sometimes, it isn't.)

"All" as a determiner preceding a pronoun:

Using "all" as a determiner before a personal pronoun is usually wrong. For example:
  • all we
  • all they
The word "of" is required to avoid a reading stutter. Look at these fuller examples:
  • All we believe.
  • (Native English speakers would interpret this as "everything that we believe" and not "everybody believes.")
  • All they are thinking.
  • (Native English speakers would interpret this as "everything that they are thinking" and not "they all are thinking.")

The Grammar of "All Of"

"All" as an indefinite pronoun preceding a noun:

When used in the phrase "all of," "all" is classified as an indefinite pronoun. It is perfectly acceptable to use "all of" before a noun. For example:
  • all of the men
  • all of the students
(NB: When using "all of," the noun is usually preceded by "the.")

"All" as an indefinite pronoun preceding a noun:

Using "all of" before a personal pronoun is expected:
  • All of us believe.
  • All of them are thinking.
Note that the personal pronouns are now in the objective case. (This just means that "all we" became "all of us" and that "all they" became "all of them.")

"All Of Whom" and "All of Which"

Use "all of" with relative pronouns (e.g., "whom," "which") too. For example:
  • I have three sisters, all of whom lead very normal lives. (Politician Jane Byrne)
  • He trained over 20 mares, all of which won more prize money in their first season than they cost.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

Using All Right or Alright Take a test on All and All Of What are pronouns? What are indefinite adjectives? What are indefinite pronouns?