Universal Pro-forms

Universal pro-forms are special function words or expressions to refer to the total number of something. In this lesson, you will learn more about them.

Universal Pro-forms in English Grammar

What Are Universal Pro-forms?

We use universal pro-forms to refer to the total number of something either:

  • individually to all the members of a complete group of something
  • to a complete group as a whole

When Do We Use Universal Pro-forms?

We use universal pro-forms when we want to refer to all the members of a complete group of something.

All students must have access to quality education.

(refers to the whole group)

Every student must have access to quality education.

(focuses on each individual member of the whole group)

Universal Words

Because of their meaning, some determiners, pronouns, and adverbs are usually used in universal contexts. Let's have a look:

Determiner Pronoun Adverb
every everybody (person) everywhere (place)
each everyone (person) every time (time)
all everything (thing) every way (manner)

Tip!

There are some uncommon universal words that are seldom used. Here is the list:

  • everywhence (adverb of source)
  • everywhither (adverb of purpose)
  • everywhen (adverb of time)
  • everywise (adverb of manner)

Universal Words in Positive Statements

Universal words are typically used in positive sentences. When we use a universal word, we indicate a general, all-inclusive, and nonspecific group.

Everyone likes her.

Everything was OK at that moment.

Use 'each' when you are thinking about the people or things in a group separately, one by one. Use 'every' when you are thinking about the whole group of people or things together, with no exceptions:

Each student was given a prize.

Every student was given a prize.

When we use each to refer to the subject of the clause, it usually appears in the normal mid position for adverbs, between the subject and the main verb, after the modal verb or first auxiliary verb, or after be as a main verb:

We each agreed to help by contributing some money towards the cost.

We would each say a poem or sing a song.

Universal Words in Negative Sentences

Universal Words can be used in negative sentences.

I don't know everything.

Another way of negating universals such as 'every' and 'all' is by adding the word 'not' before them:

Not every noun has a plural form.

Not all his books are good.

Do not use each in negative clauses. Use none:

None of the answers was correct. (Not 'Each of the answers was correct.')

Universal Words in Questions

Universal words can either be used in negative questions and positive questions to refer to a whole group:

Don't you think everything will turn out OK?

Is all well with you?

Universal Words: Number

Most Universal Words take singular verbs, either because they represent one thing or because they are collective, and, like collective nouns, agree with singular verbs and pronouns. For example:

Each member of the family has the flu.

Everyone works well together.

Plural Universal Words take plural verbs.

Both suspects match the description.

Variable Universal Words can go with either a plural or a singular verb, based on what noun they're talking about.

All the ice is gone.

We use 'all' with plural and uncountable nouns and 'every' with singular nouns.

'Each' is used before a singular noun with a singular verb. 'Each' can also be used before 'of' and a plural noun. The verb should still be singular:

Each item was thoroughly checked.

Each of these people has some useful talent or experience.

Universal Distributives

Distributives refer to a group of people or things, and to individual members of the group. They show different ways of looking at the individuals within a group, and they express how something is distributed, shared, or divided.
'Each' and 'every' are distributives. Both generally have the same meaning. They refer to all members of a group considered individually.

  1. We use 'every' to talk about things collectively as a group more than individually
  2. We use 'each' to talk about the individual members of a group as separate items

Each member of the team is given a particular job to do.

Every member of the team is given a particular job to do.

Warning

We cannot use 'every' when we want to refer to two things and is not common with small numbers.

Each of my parents ✓

Every (one) of my parents ✗

Each vs. Every

Take a look at the differences between these two words:

Each Every
can be used for two persons or things used for three or more persons or things
can be used as a pronoun has to be used before a noun
can be used before a verb used for repeated actions

All vs. Every

'All' is used with a plural noun and a plural verb, while 'every' is used with a singular noun and a singular verb. 'Every' also implies 'without exception.'

All winners receive a trophy.

'Winners' is a plural noun and 'receive' is a plural verb.

Every winner receives a trophy.

'Winner' is a singular noun and 'receives' is a singular verb.

We use 'All' with uncountable nouns because they cannot be counted individually.

I admire all art. (Not 'every art', because we cannot count art)

All vs. Each

All refers to the entire group as a whole. Each refers to the individual members of the group.

I say hello to all of the guests as they enter the room.

It means the speaker just say the word 'hello' once.

I say hello to each guest as they enter the room.

It means the speaker say 'hello A, hello B, Hello C, hello D, etc. until it has been said to all of the guest individually.

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Pro-adverbs

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Assertive Pro-forms

An assertive pro-form is a type of word that stands in for another word, phrase, clause, or sentence where the truth of a positive statement is asserted.

Non-assertive Pro-forms

Non-assertive Pro-forms refer to a group of words or phrases that refer to specific things/persons, but it is not important to mention what.

Negative Pro-forms

Negative pro-forms are special function words that we use when we want to refer to the absence of people, things, or places.

Alternative Pro-forms

Alternative means 'choice.' When we have many choices, we talk about one, another, and the other. These words signal the alternatives.

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