"All" or "All of"

MJGR   Wednesday, September 08, 2004, 15:05 GMT
As far as I know, in English, sometimes it is used "All" and sometimes it is used "All of". For example "All cars" or "All of us". What is the rule to choose one form or the other?
Easterner   Wednesday, September 08, 2004, 15:35 GMT
As I see it, they are similar with a shade of difference. "All" used alone means "each one of a given sort in general". "All cars" therefore would refer to each and every car in particular, linked by a common feature, as in "All cars have rear-view mirrors", similarly with "All chickens have two legs" (excepting those affected by some genetical deformities, but this still applies as a general rule). Same goes for "All men [meaning both males and females] are mortal". Here "all" emphasizes things that each member of a given group has in common with the others (in general, regardless of the context).

"All of" has a similar connotation, but it has a more restrictive meaning, something like "each one of a particular group", the emphasis being on "particular", and the scope depends on the context. Thus, in "All of the participants approved of the decision" would refer to a restricted group of people who were present at a meeting. Same in "This has been a difficult time for all of us", the meaning of "us" being determined by the context, usually a group of people including the ones to whom the statement is addressed to.

This is one way of formulating the principle behind the two forms, but others may also have different insights.
Easterner   Wednesday, September 08, 2004, 16:03 GMT
Just one more remark: of course it goes without saying that "all" can be used in generalising statements voicing a subjective opinion, therefore "All men are selfish, insensitive creatures" spoken angrily by a woman would not mean that this is a general truth, but it may nevertheless be a "truth" for her at that moment, based on her scope of (devastating) experience. But usually *all* "truths" are easily revised given an "exception" crops up at the right time and stays long enough. Hasn't it happened to *all* of us?:-)
MJGR   Thursday, September 09, 2004, 08:21 GMT
You should be a teacher. :-)
Easterner   Thursday, September 09, 2004, 08:39 GMT
Actually I used to be, but I'm more of a translator at the moment. :-)