"What all three famous men here were doing..." -- why is there no article if the men have been mentioned before?



Here is a chunk from a video on EngVid (the whole piece starts at 0:21; the phrase in question is at 1:06):

You might have heard of this expression by Julius Caesar...

Similarly, modern times, Obama, in his inauguration speech said...

There's another example by Ben Franklin. Some people also say this is a Chinese proverb...

Now, what all three famous men here were doing was using what you're going to learn how to use by the end of this lesson, which is the "Magic of Three".

The three men have already been mentioned, but why is she not using the definite article when referring to them? She is even stressing this part, the word all.


Posted 2016-01-10T20:57:37.220

Reputation: 1 864

The ELU SE has a special tag for "all the" questions, pardon the pun. Many of the answers I've come across so far are unclear, however. Here's all the three vs. all three

– CowperKettle – 2016-01-10T21:18:56.910


Found a helpful answer by StoneyB

– CowperKettle – 2016-01-10T21:26:59.737

Because despite what you have read and/or been taught, there is no rule that says the definite article must be used for something that has been mentioned before. – Alan Carmack – 2016-09-19T13:14:12.460



"What all three famous men here were doing" is idiomatic and correct. I have not looked at the numbers in an NGram, but as a native American English speaker I would find "all the three famous men" to sound very odd. I realize this answer is opinion-based, but I hope it will prove useful nevertheless.

Mark Hubbard

Posted 2016-01-10T20:57:37.220

Reputation: 4 298