How does 'all' work in "Are these two agreements all right?"


The title of an earlier question is:

Are these two agreements all right?

I'm not sure whether that title means (1) or (2) below.

  1. "Are both these two agreements right?"
  2. "Are these two agreements entirely right?"

Stated otherwise, how does "all" work in that title?


Posted 2013-03-24T17:45:14.160




A native speaker who only just specified that there are exactly two agreements wouldn't use "all" to refer to them; he'd use "both". I.e.

Are these two agreements both right?

Or simply,

Are both these agreements right?

And even then, I'm not sure he'd use the word right in this case. Perhaps correct, or valid, or complete, or legal, or whatever suits the context — the point is, right is unlikely to be used because it would raise the question, right about what?

So for these reasons, "all right" quite obviously functions as a single unit here, meaning "fine, acceptable, adequate, satisfactory". There is no ambiguity.

But what if there were more than two agreements? Well, let's see:

Are these agreements all right?

This actually could be construed to be ambiguous; it could mean "are these agreements okay", and it could mean "are all of these agreements right". But again, in the latter case you'd probably use a different adjective and/or move the "all" to the front (like I just did). So syntactically both interpretations would make sense, but semantically the second one would still be more likely.


Posted 2013-03-24T17:45:14.160

Reputation: 5 214

Reg, even if you still have that strange "R", I'm glad to hear from you. Stay with us, we need of competent speakers here. Thank you. – None – 2013-03-24T19:58:58.433


@Carlo_R. It is not a R: It is the Cyrillic Ya. ;)

– kiamlaluno – 2013-03-24T21:09:31.210

@kiam, every day one learns the most unexpected things. Thank you. – None – 2013-03-24T21:23:21.257

That's true, though in English it's often used as a faux Cyrillic R to give a Russian flavor to something, as in TETЯIS: The Soviet Mind Game. (That would be Тетрис in actual Cyrillic.) A similar glyph appears in Toys "Я" Us, in which it represents R written backwards, as by a child. – snailplane – 2013-03-24T22:20:06.020


All right in that case means "acceptable."

Is the coffee all right?

As in other cases, all right is synonym with OK.

I hope the children are all right.

Do you feel all right?

Are you sure it's all right for me to leave early?


Posted 2013-03-24T17:45:14.160

Reputation: 20 456

kiam, yes, but is it correct to use "all right" in reference to grammar facts? – None – 2013-03-24T18:09:49.657

1As all right means acceptable, yes it is all right. – kiamlaluno – 2013-03-24T18:11:47.997


If the question asks whether the two agreements are correct, then what the writer needs to say is Are these two agreements both right? Are these two agreements all right? asks if they are acceptable. In such cases, the spelling alright can remove any ambiguity.

Barrie England

Posted 2013-03-24T17:45:14.160

Reputation: 7 553