Both vs. All

It is actually easy to understand the difference between these two words. In this lesson, we will learn more about them.

"Both" vs. "All" in the English Grammar

What Are Their Main Differences?

Some would think that 'both' and 'all' mean the same. But in fact, they are delicately different. Actually, the term 'both' refers to two options out of the two, while the term 'all' refers to each individual in a group of two or more.


What They Refer to

  • 'Both':

refers to two objects out of two. Sometimes it is implied that if we mention to both of the two in a group of two it can be all. That is right. In fact, 'both' can be 'all', but 'all' can not be 'both'.

Both actors are genius.

  • 'All':

refers to two or more. To be clear consider a group of one hundred people or things. 'All' refers to every one hundred people or things together at the same time.

All girls are shining at the party.

Nouns That Follow 'Both' and 'All'

  • 'All':

is followed by plural countable nouns and uncountable nouns. Sometimes it can mean 'the whole amount' and this meaning is mostly used with uncountable nouns.

All students were writing their essays.

  • 'Both':

is followed by plural countable nouns. It can not be used with uncountable nouns.

Both waiters were polite and patient.

What Kinds of Verbs Follow 'Both' and 'All'

  • 'All':

is followed by a plural or singular verb. With a plural countable noun, use a plural verb, and with uncountable nouns, use singular verbs.

All cats love rubbing on their stomach.

All the milk is dropped on the floor.

  • 'Both':

is followed by a plural verb because it is used for plural nouns.

Both mobiles have good qualities.


'Both of' and 'All of'

  • 'Both' and 'all':

are followed by 'of' when we use determiners or pronouns after them. However, 'both' and 'all' alone can sometimes be used before (determiners + nouns).

Both of them were accepted in the university.

All of ......them__ were young and talented.

Grammatical Functions

  • 'Both' and 'all':
  1. as pronouns
  2. as determiners

As you might know, pronouns are used alone with no nouns after them, and mostly they come directly before the verb. Determiners are used before nouns to define them.

Both girls can be the next champions. → determiner

All children are supposed to talk at the age of 1. → determiner

Since there is a noun after ''both'' and ''all'', they are determiners here .

"Which answer is correct?" "Both are correct." → pronoun

"What did you choose?" "I don’t know. All are nice and well-designed." → pronoun

'All' as an Adverb

'All' can be an adverb too. As an adverb, it can be used to modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

My son was all covered in chocolate. → adverb

Negative Form of 'All'

The negative form of all is not all.

Not all cats are chubby, this one is different.

'But Not Both'

Sometimes the expression 'but not both' is used to say that you have only one choice. It is basically used at the end of a sentence.

You can either have the cat or the dog but not both.


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