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Author Topic: When does the indefinite pronoun “All” act as singular or plural in meaning?  (Read 1021 times)
Justine Aragones
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« on: June 17, 2015, 11:06:11 PM »

When do we need to consider the indefinite pronoun “All” as singular (or plural) in meaning as used in this popular language saying: “the limits of our language are the limits of our mind, and all we really know is what we have words for.”?

Is the use of comma after the word coherent more of a style in using punctuation?

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“.Next make yourself thoroughly familiar with the various tools of English for putting words together into grammatically and structurally correct, coherent, and clear statements.”
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Joe Carillo
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« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2015, 08:48:19 AM »

The pronoun “all” can be singular or plural depending on context. It could mean “totality,” as in “All that I have is yours” (singular); “everybody,” as in “All are required to come tomorrow” (plural); and “everything,” as in “All is fair in love and war” (singular).

However, “all” has an entirely different sense in this sentence that you presented, “The limits of our language are the limits of our mind, and all we really know is what we have words for.” Here, it is functioning as an adjective to mean “only” or “nothing but,” and the noun phrase “all we really know” is actually singular in sense. This explains the use of the singular-form linking verb “is” in the clause “all we really know is what we have words for.”

Now about the use of the serial comma in this other sentence that you presented: “Next make yourself thoroughly familiar with the various tools of English for putting words together into grammatically and structurally correct, coherent, and clear statements.”

Yes, the use of comma after the word “coherent” is a punctuation style called the Oxford comma. Many publications, particular daily newspapers, actually do away with that last comma between the last item and the one preceding it in serial enumeration sentences, writing it this way instead: “Next make yourself thoroughly familiar with the various tools of English for putting words together into grammatically and structurally correct, coherent and clear statements.” They do it as a matter of style.

As for me, though, I prefer to use the Oxford comma in every possible grammatical construction that involves serial enumeration. I have explained this personal choice of mine in several earlier postings in the Forum. I laid out my justifications in my essay “Why I consistently use the serial comma.” You can read by simply clicking the indicated link.
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