Why does "money" take "the" in "all the money in the world"?



"All the money in the world " , in this sentence we talk about money in general , right ? I've read a book that says if we're talking about things in general we do not use "the". So why "the money" ?


Posted 2018-11-26T14:33:14.853

Reputation: 177



This sentence is not talking about money in general. It is talking about a specific set: "all the money in the world", as if it was a specific quantity you could receive:

Suppose I gave you a box with all the money in the world. How would you choose to distribute it?

Other examples talking about a specific set of money:

Do you still have the money I gave you for your birthday?

The money donated to charities should be included on your tax forms, if you want to take the deduction.

It is possible to talk about money as a concept, in which case you would not use the definite article. Examples of this:

I don't care too much for money, and money can't buy me love -- John Lennon / Paul McCartney

A wise person should have money in their head, but not in their heart. --Jonathan Swift

Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant. --P.T. Barnum

It is possible to say "all money in the world" to reference the global concept of money, rather than a specific quantity.

All money in the world, in whatever form, relies on the collective agreement that it is worth something. Even a brick of gold has no value to a starving man, unless he can exchange it for food.

[Edit] With regard to FumbleFinger's objection: I would claim "money donated to charities" is either a kind of ellipsis, or else refers to a conceptual subset of the concept of money. In my example, it makes little difference whether I'm talking in general about the practice of donating money, or of a specific instance of some quantity donated. The second half of the sentence applies either way.

Conceptual example: Money (which has been generally) donated to charities should be declared.

Ellipsis example: (The specific quantity of) Money (which you have) donated to charities should be declared.

I think a more in-depth exploration is out of the scope of the question, as OP asks only what the definite article means in this context, and not whether the definite article is required.


Posted 2018-11-26T14:33:14.853

Reputation: 85 521

*All [the] water on earth originally came from comets*. That may not be a true statement, but it's syntactically fine with or without the article - or with *all of the water*, come to that. So I don't really see how your talking about a specific set point really "explains" anything here. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2018-11-26T17:42:42.940

@FumbleFingers I've edited to try and explain the distinction. – Andrew – 2018-11-26T18:18:26.203

2@isac please take note of my edits. It is possible to omit the definite article, but this changes the meaning. – Andrew – 2018-11-26T18:18:54.963

I've cancelled earlier downvote, but still can't see sufficient reason to upvote. I couldn't bring myself to accept article-less Suppose I gave you a box with all money in the world, but there's nothing wrong with Money donated to charities should be included on your tax forms. And in a context such as I still have [the] money [that] I earned when I last had a job, I can't really see that including the article or not makes any difference at all to the meaning - it certainly doesn't seem to be a matter of whether or not "money" represents a "concept". – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2018-11-26T18:37:01.220

@FumbleFingers edited again. I think we're starting to get well above the scope of this question (and out of my depth), and it might be better posed to ELU to get a truly complete answer. – Andrew – 2018-11-26T19:28:56.670

You may have a point there (about ELU). But I'm now happy to upvote here mainly on the basis of your final couple of points. You've clarified well enough how to distinguish the article in *the (specific quantity of) money (which has actually been) donated to charities* from article-less (any*) money (real or hypothetical, counted or not, which might have been) donated*. And the distinction between addressing what one's choice might be, and whether a choice even exists in any given context is crucial, even though it's probably Too Broad for the question as posed here. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2018-11-27T14:12:48.680


You have misunderstood what was meant in that book by "in general".

In this sentence, we are speaking of money and water in general terms:

Money is an alternative to barter.

Water is necessary for life.

But here, even though we are speaking of "all", we're still speaking of the thing in particular:

All the water in the watering hole dries up during the summer dry season.

All the money in the world couldn't get me to do that.


Posted 2018-11-26T14:33:14.853

Reputation: 116 610

Per comment to @Andrew's answer, and noting that even All water in the watering hole dries up during the summer dry season is "more or less" okay without the article, it's not obvious to me that there's a "complete" explanation here.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2018-11-26T17:47:46.797

@FumbleFingers: You wouldn't say "I drank all water in the glass." But you might say "I siphoned all water from the tank" and "All water in the beaker evaporates when you place it over the bunsen burner". Since you bring it up, care to explain why? – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2018-11-26T17:55:32.707

I don't think I know how to explain why - but I kinda assumed you would, if you could be so motivated. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2018-11-26T18:24:21.343

1@FumbleFingers: I lack (the) motivation. :) But all is a shape-shifter. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2018-11-26T19:01:31.037

@Tᴚoɯɐuo I don't feel the examples from your comment to be correct. I'd use the article in all of them. – I'm with Monica – 2018-11-27T06:29:30.950

1@Alexander Kosubek: And you would be wrong to use the article. The money is an alternative to the barter is not grammatical in English. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2018-11-27T10:55:27.563

@AlexanderKosubek: There's an old joke among American comedians who are making fun of the syntax of their parents and grandparents who emigrated from Germany: Toss papa down the stairs his hat. That sentence feels OK to you, right? – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2018-11-27T11:10:51.083

@Tᴚoɯɐuo No, neither of those feel correct. I don't think I like your attidude, though. - I explicitly only referred to your comments, not the content of the original answer. I apoligize for not making myself clearer, before: What is the substantial difference that makes "all water" okay if it is the object, but not okay if it is the subject of a sentence, even though both refer to a finite, well defined subset of all water anywhere? (That's what I take away from your comment posted 20181126T175532) – I'm with Monica – 2018-11-28T07:11:33.550

@AlexanderKosubek: My attitude? I'm not sure what you're referring to. If it is the joke, my point is that if you use your native language (which I assume is German) to make judgments about what is idiomatic in English, you will end up making the same sort of mistake that John Kennedy made when he said *Ich bin ein Berliner*. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2018-11-28T12:02:18.887

@AlexanderKosubek: In the sentences I siphoned all water from the tank and All water in the beaker evaporates... we find all water used as direct object in the former and as subject in the latter. So whether the noun phrase is a subject or an object has no bearing upon the absence of the definite article. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2018-11-28T12:12:08.093


I don't know what book told you that, but it's not the truth.1

Fact is, there are several reasons we might use the definite article. Macmillan (definition 1b) says:

used when you are referring to familiar things that people deal with regularly

I looked up at the ceiling; suddenly all the lights went out

Many familiar adages and expressions use the definite article even though they talk about things in general. Consider:

  • The lion is king of the jungle.
  • Top of the morning to you!
  • It hit me right between the eyes.
  • Religion is the opiate of the masses.
  • All the news that's fit to print.

1See what I did there?


Posted 2018-11-26T14:33:14.853

Reputation: 108 123


Ditto Andrew's excellent answer, let me just add:

Don't get confused by the difference between how something is in the real world, and how it is grammatically.

Yes, in real life, "all the money in the world" is, well, all the money that exists. Logically, you might say that it's the same as "money" as a general concept. But GRAMMATICALLY, "all the money in the world" is NOT all money that exists, it's a specific set of money, namely, the money that is "in the world". While in real life that may be all money, grammatically it is not.


Posted 2018-11-26T14:33:14.853

Reputation: 51 729


The big, fancy language scholar term for this particular use of the definite article, "the", is "modadic"—the as in the one and only.

From your example, rephrased:

There is only one collection of all money in the one and only world.


8. Monadic

("One of a Kind" or "Unique")

The Article

Jesse Steele

Posted 2018-11-26T14:33:14.853

Reputation: 876

I'm gonna upvote this one purely because you didn't include the "optional" article in *There is only one collection of all the money in the one and only world,* even though you didn't specifically draw attention to that yourself! – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2018-11-26T17:54:58.833

1I'm so glad you noticed that! I was mindful of not wanting to use a circular definition with the first "one", with the one and only "the" being qualified enough not to be. ;-) – Jesse Steele – 2018-11-26T17:58:13.413


All the money in the world would not make you happy.

We only have one specific world, and all the money in it is very specific.

Having money in the bank is a good thing, if its yours. [non-specific]

And: The money I have in the bank is none of your business. [specific]

Please note: for certain expressions such as money in the bank, a the is used with bank.


Posted 2018-11-26T14:33:14.853

Reputation: 26 929


There is a word elided which will make parsing the phrase easier:

All of the money in the world

"Of money" is wrong for different reasons -- the preposition requires more than just a bare noun.


Posted 2018-11-26T14:33:14.853

Reputation: 441

This is the point I was hoping to see. As with most English, we've munged it up so it doesn't follow our own quidelines by omitting a word. – Scott Baker – 2018-11-28T16:10:25.920