Meaning and the position of "all" in a sentence

6

1

  1. All my friends answered my questions in the class yesterday. Every one of my friends answered my questions...

  2. My friends all answered my questions in the class yesterday. Each one answered my questions...

  3. My friends answered all my questions in the class yesterday. Every one of my questions was answered by my friends...

  4. My friends answered my questions all in the class yesterday. Not acceptable English.

  5. My friends answered my questions in the class all yesterday. My friends answered my questions all day, yesterday.

Do you agree with these? I am confused with the fourth one.

nima

Posted 2014-07-19T14:23:07.867

Reputation: 5 551

1Why the d/v? Depending on context 4) is OK. They didn't answer questions on the oval, or in the canteen, they answered all in class. It's made awkward by the unnecessary 'the' (just 'in class' is fine), and I'd try to write it another way, but it is legitimate. – mcalex – 2014-07-23T08:47:48.923

1Yes, your readings of the sentences are correct. You should limit your question to be about #4 specifically, and add why you think it's not acceptable and what the meaning is supposed to be. Right now this question is likely to get closed as proofreading. – Esoteric Screen Name – 2014-07-28T06:06:51.627

Answers

3

Actually, the fourth is acceptable.

The first, second, third, and fifth make perfect sense, as you've described in italics, but the fourth is actually acceptable english.

The first one implies that each and every one of your friends went and answered your questions, whereas the second implies that a group of friends are present, and that they are all answering your questions. The third is exactly as you've described.

The fourth one is acceptable english, and it implies that your friends (that are present) answered your questions in and only in the class today. For example,

I ate my cookies all in one hour.

means that I ate my cookies in not two or three hours, but in one hour. This implies that you ate quickly, finishing them in one hour and not anything else.

I ate my cookies in one hour.

This sentence, on the other and, doesn't imply anything, it just tells the reader that I ate all in one hour, not mentioning anything about the speed that you ate it.

so the fourth sentence:

My friends answered my questions all in the class yesterday.

implies that your friends answered your questions in only the class yesterday, and not the class 2 days ago, or the class today.

Whenever you put 'all' between the object and 'in,' it will always allow the reader to infer that the action being done by the subject is hard to accomplish in the given time.

Pyraminx

Posted 2014-07-19T14:23:07.867

Reputation: 1 524

1Do you suppose you could add some indication of how these readings are derived, so users can generalize rules (or at least rules of thumb) from the answer? – StoneyB on hiatus – 2014-12-25T16:08:53.420

2

Check out these sentences:

The new system only confused the PA -It did nothing other than confusing her
Only the new system confused the PA -It's the new system, the old one did not confuse her
The new system confused the only PA -there is only one PA in the office

In some way, only and all in this context are the same. I mean, the meaning of the sentence changes depending upon the placement of those magical words. Here, these words apply to the word following it. This is quite clear from the above mentioned sentences.

A similar magic word 'all' in your question also works in the same way. It depends on the following word that comes after it. And, it changes the sentences accordingly. I may not agree with Pyraminx that only the fourth one is acceptable. To me, all sentences make sense. It's just the placement of the word 'all' (like 'only') that confuses us. I think you have pretty well understood the nuance.

All my friends answered my questions in the class yesterday -'All' followed by my friends so you are emphasizing on "every one of my friends answered my questions..."

My friends all answered my questions in the class yesterday -'All' followed by 'answered' which means the emphasis is on everyone answered your questions...

My friends answered all my questions in the class yesterday -'All' followed by your questions that means they might not have answered anyone else's questions.

My friends answered my questions all in the class yesterday -'All' followed by in the class. This sounds okay as well. They answered all in the class, not outside!

And finally...

My friends answered my questions in the class all yesterday - 'All' followed by 'yesterday'. As you guessed it correctly, your friends answered your questions all day, yesterday.

Maulik V

Posted 2014-07-19T14:23:07.867

Reputation: 66 188

1

The position of all in a sentence largely infers what 'All' of something you have.

All my friends answered my questions in the class yesterday.

All the friends you have, in your class, answered your questions.

My friends all answered my questions in the class yesterday.

Some friends of yours (not necessarily all of them, but multiple), answer all the the questions you asked.

My friends answered my questions all in the class yesterday.

This sentence is incorrect/awkward English. The 'all' is largely unnecessary here as it doesn't pertain to anything. It's confusing two sentences, "My friends were all in the class yesterday" and "My friends answered my questions". It would make more sense as "My friends answered my questions, all of which were in the class yesterday."

My friends answered my questions in the class all yesterday.

This is poor English, it's passable in a colloquial setting. It should be 'all day' or 'all of'.

abrosis

Posted 2014-07-19T14:23:07.867

Reputation: 56

Your analysis is partly flawed. 'My friends all answered...' definitely suggests that all the friends answered. Imagine a psychology survey that you handed all your friends. – MrWonderful – 2014-12-29T18:19:38.517