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?

Universal pro-forms are used to refer to the entirety of something, either by addressing each member of a complete group individually or by referring to the group as a whole.

When Do We Use Universal Pro-forms?

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

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)

Using "each" as a universal pro-forms


There are some uncommon universal words that are rarely 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 affirmative sentences. When we use a universal word, we indicate a general, all-inclusive, and nonspecific group. For example:

Everyone likes her.

Everything is OK at that moment.

Universal Words in Negative Sentences

Universal Words can be used in negative sentences.

I don't know everything.

Universals such as 'every' and 'all' can also be negated 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' instead:

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

Universal Words in Questions

Universal words can be used in negative 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 because they either represent a single entity or a collective group of entities that are treated as a single unit. Similar to collective nouns, universal words are used 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.

Some universal words can go with either a plural or a singular verb, depending on the noun they're referring to. For example:

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. It 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 have the same general meaning. They refer to all members of a group considered individually.

  1. 'Every' is used to talk about things collectively as a group rather than individually
  2. 'Each' is used to talk about the individual members of a group as separate entities

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

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


We cannot use 'every' when we want to refer to two things. It is not commonly used with small numbers.

Each of my parents ✓

Every (one) of my parents ✗

Each vs. Every

'Each' is used to refer to the people or things in a group separately, one by one. 'Every', on the other hand, is used to refer to the whole group of people or things together. When 'each' is used to refer to the subject of the clause, it usually appears between the subject and the main verb, after the modal verb or first auxiliary verb, or after 'be' as a main verb. The table below summarizes 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

We each agreed to help by contributing some money to the cause.

Every student was given a prize.

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. For example:

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 are pro-forms that take the place of adverbs. In this lesson, we are going to learn about its types and functions.

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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