Word of the Day – “alle”

Hello everyone, this strawberry cake is alle

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we will have a look at the meaning of:

alle

 

Seems boring enough at first glance, right?
Alle
is of course the German brother of all and the core idea is the same.
But the usage is a little different. Also, German has this other word ganze, which also means all, and the question is of course how they’re different. And as if that wasn’t enough, alle also has a second meaning and that one can REALLY confuse you if you don’t know about it.

Yeah… definitely something to clear up, so let’s friggin’ jump into it.

Let’s start with a few examples…

  • Ich habe alle meine Freunde eingeladen.
  • I have invited all my friends.
  • Alle Kinder gehen in die Schule.
  • All kids go to school.
  • “Hast du die Star Trek Filme auf DVD?”
    “Ja, ich habe alle.”
  • “Do you have the Star Trek movies on DVD?”
    “Yeah, I got them all.”
  • Ich liebe euch alle.
  • I love you all.

Seems like the two words line up very well, right?
But there’s actually a really big difference between German alle and English all, and that is that German alle ONLY works for entities in plural. Unless you’re some linguistic super genius you probably haven’t noticed it, but the examples we had were all about plurals… all my friends, all the kids and all the movies.

The English all can also be used for singular, in the sense of entire. Like in all night or all my life.
And THAT generally does NOT work with alle.

  • Ich war alle Nacht auf…. NOPE
  • I was up all night.

This makes NO sense and it might well confuse a native speaker because the alle makes them feel like there’s a plural.
If you are not sure, just try to replace all with the whole or the entire and if that works, then ganze is your word.
So for this type of all, the proper translation is ganze.… or ganzen or ganzes and so on. You know… adjective endings.

  • I was up all night.
  • Ich war die ganze Nacht auf.
  • I was working all week.
  • Ich habe die ganze Woche gearbeitet.
  • I have enough of all that stuff.
  • Ich habe genug von dem ganzen Zeug.

So, for plural-all use alle, for singular-all use ganze. You can even make a mnemonic from this… plurAL like alle and sinGular. Pretty awesome, I know.

Anyway, there’s actually kind of a third group besides singular and plural and that is the “mass-nouns” – those that are used in singular but can stand for a large quantity of the thing.  Like beer or hope or money.
And for those, we actually have the choice. We can either use ganze like we just learned, but we can also use all. And yes, I mean all in German WITHOUT e.

  • Ich habe in Vegas all mein Geld verloren.
  • Ich habe in Vegas mein ganzes Geld verloren.
  • I have lost all my money in Vegas.

The version with all sounds fancier and a bit poetic even, but it doesn’t need you to put adjective endings, so that might be the easier option. Just make sure to NOT say alle – that would sound really weird, again.

Cool.
So now we know when to use alle as a translation for all. But that’s not the only thing it is used for. It can also be a translation for everyone. And in that role it gets what most pronouns get… case endings. Yeay!

  • Alle finden das Konzert gut.
  • Everyone likes the concert.
  • Ich gebe allen (Dative) ein Stück Kuchen.
  • I give a piece of cake to everyone.

And I’m sure that many of you know the other German option for everyonejeder/s/e/m/n.
So what’s the difference?
Well, grammatically, alle* is a plural while jede* is singular.

  • Jeder findet das Konzert gut.
  • Alle finden das Konzert gut.

And that has an effect on the meaning, or let’s say, tone.  Alle focuses on the group as a whole while jeder puts a little more emphasis on the individual. So in the first example, I’d say alle is definitely the better choice because you’re talking about a crowd. In the second example, jedem would work perfectly fine as well.

Anyway, so alle can mean everyone. And it is actually also the best translation for everything.  All we need to do then is add a little s and make it alles, so it doesn’t sound “plural” anymore.

  • Ich habe alles vergessen.
  • I have forgotten everything.
  • Das alles macht keinen Sinn.
  • All that makes no sense.
  • Alles ist relativ.
  • Everything is relative.

And I guess we should not forget to mention alle in the context of time, because there (and only there) it can be a translation for every.

  • My phone is ringing every 5 minutes.
  • Mein Telefon klingelt alle 5 Minuten.

Cool.
So now we have a pretty good overview over how to use alle for the overarching theme of all.
But as I said in the beginning… and that has nothing to do with what we’ve seen so far.

The (very) other meaning of “alle”

Let’s again start with an example…

  • Wir hatten drei Kuchen aber jetzt sind alle alle.

Yes, this is not a typo. There are really two alle in a row. German, you’ve done it again, you son of a gun… another stupid looking phrasing.
So, the sentence is correct, understandable and might be uttered this way in daily conversation.
And the meaning is that all three cakes are… gone, finished, eaten up.
Because THAT’S the second meaning of alle, or let’s maybe say of the phrase alle sein. It expresses that some sort of stockpile is emptied.
By far the most common context for this one is food, but you can also find it for other “resources”

  • Mein Geld ist alle.
  • I am out of money.
  • Meine Zigaretten sind alle.
  • My cigarettes are all gone.
  • “Gibt es noch Suppe?”
    “Nein, die ist leider alle.”
  • “Is there some soup left?”
    “No, it is all gone unfortunately.”

And it is even used for persons in a way.

  • Ich bin total alle.
  • I am totally exhausted.

Where does this meaning come from?
I’m not sure, to be honest, but if we think of the sense of entire as complete then we just have to flip it negative and we’re there… like… when I have all Pokemon cards, my set is com-pleted. When I have drank all my beer, it is de-pleted (“negative complete”), if you will.
Either way, make sure you DON’T think of it as empty because alle is NOT about the container – it is about the content. So my beer can be alle but my beer glass cannot.
And also, this alle is rather colloquial and focused on our daily needs, so don’t use it in writing.

All right,  now to wrap this up I want to give you 2 of the many useful idioms with alle.

  • All in all
  • Alles in allem

Just to make sure… it is alles as the English all could be technically replaced by everything and it is allem because it is case 3. Why is it case 3? Because it is in and we are talking about a fixed location here. No idea, what I just said? Don’t worry… I will get to it my On-line course and then it won’t be any miracle anymore.
The second idiom comes very handy in inner city traffic:

  • Hast du sie noch alle?
  • Der hat sie doch nicht mehr alle!

Garnished with a little “du Idiot!” you have a formidable version of

  • Are you mad?
  • He is nuts!

And just because the construction might be a little confusing, here is the blue print… just fill in the person of your choice. The words in parentheses are options for the sound. They do not really mean anything here. You may use all three at once

  • ____ hat sie (doch)(wohl) nicht (mehr)alle!

And that’s it for today. Das war alles für heute :).
This was our little look at how to use alle and alles.
If you want, you can take our little quiz and see how much you remember :).
And as always, if you have questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

—-

And let’s get one thing out of the way right away because it’s a BIG mistake: not at all is translated NOT translated with alle. It is translated as überhaupt nicht.
Alle
does NOT MAKE ANY SENSE in that context.

  • I don’t like German at all.
  • Ich mag Deutsch überhaupt nicht. #sad

With that out of the way let’s first look at all that all and alle have in common and yes this phrasing was on purpose.

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Jojo
Jojo
7 months ago

I like your page

faiwer
faiwer
10 months ago

And another one nuance. Much simpler:

Sie sind alle gute Leute

The question is: why “gute” instead of “guteN“.

The answer (as I understood):

  1. We can separate this sentence by two pieces: “Sie sind alle” and “gute Leute”.
  2. So, we see that “alle” is glued to “Sie” instead of “Leute”
  3. It’s like “Sie alle sind gute Leute” (probably wrong way to say, but more understandable grammatically)
  4. So “gute” is an Artikelwort, even though it’s also an adjective. And now it is not supposed to be ended with “en”
Stepan Zubashev
Stepan Zubashev
10 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

> As for “gute”… that is NOT an article. It is an adjective without an article and it carries the normal plural ending for Nominative :).

Yeah, I know. I meant “article-like word” or “article-replacing word”. Something that takes responsibility for an article, which is absent. And therefore conjugated like an article. Dunno how it’s called linguistically :-)

Stepan Zubashev
Stepan Zubashev
10 months ago

Oh… I have to correct myself a bit. My assumption that “strong declension” of adjectives has exactly the same endings that definite have is incorrect. Yeah, most of them are exactly the same, but not all. In genitive singular instead of using -es they use -en (Deutsch, warum?).

So I couldn’t say “conjugated like an article”. I should have said “conjugated in strong declension, that is almost like definite articles” :-)

Stepan Zubashev
Stepan Zubashev
10 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I think I got this mistaken thought from some of many youtube german grammar videos. You know, sometimes teachers oversimplify something difficult, trying to explain it. And it works well… to some degree. Then it ruins the whole idea.

 I don’t know what strong declension means

It’s that case when an adjective takes a role of a definite article. E.g. “ein gutes Kind” or “gute Leute”. Usually in grammar books you have 3 big grammar tables. Strong / weak / mixed declensions of adjectives (my nightmare, lol). And this “strong declension” table looks almost like a typical grammar table of conjugating definite articles. The root of evil – “almost”, but not completely :)

Stepan Zubashev
Stepan Zubashev
10 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Have you read my series on adjective endings by any chance?

Actually not. I didn’t even know about them. But you intrigued me, I will read them. Thx.

faiwer
faiwer
10 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Hi, again. I have finally read those 3 articles. Thank you for them.

The 1st article was interesting, because having 40% of correctness just for adding +e is really nice. And yes I got to the same idea too.

But the 2nd article did not ring the bell in my head. And I will try to explain why. The whole concepts is rolling around weirdness of some German articles. But… I consider other set of articles as weird. Ok, to be honest, being a Russian I consider the whole concept of articles as weird, hehe. Because we don’t have them at all, and nobody has died because of it :-) Even English articles are really really wierd (“the New York as an example).

Back to the topic. From my point of view German articles look like they were randomly chosen from an opaque sack. Without too much logic. E.g. I find ein as a weird one. Because it should be einer in a better world. But I don‘t consider “des” as weird. Because it was easy to grasp. And so on. I can’t use the rule of article weirdness because in such a case I would add en to almost any adjective in German.

So how do I handle this topic myself? I’m lazy and cannot memorize all these 48 endings by heart. So I found some pseudo logic pieces behind those 3 tables and started step by step using them.

Rule 1. Ignore genitiv. Because why not? It simplifies everything. I don’t think I would often use genitiv with adjectives. Especially without an article.

Rule 2. Any time you deal with plural – use en. But yeah, there’re two exceptions: for strong declension with nom. & akk. I can live damit… oh with that.

3. Grasp the strong/mixed declensions concept. Even though it sounds bad it was pretty simple. Only 2 special cases:

a) your article is absent
b) or your article is from ein family (ein, mein, sein…)

What does it mean? It means that your adjective takes a role of an article. And it literally has the same ending. And I already know all of them. So I can relax my brain. Dieser – guter, diesen – guten, diesem – gutem. Just copy-paste.

4. Dative = en. So simple. Keinem, einem, seinem, diesem, whateverEM = EN. Einer, seiner, keiner, whateverER = EN. Pretty simple.

5. You got here? Use e. 40% of all uses.

As you can see it’s not so simple as 3 rules. But it works without table of article weirdiness that I would have had to learn by heart anyway to be able to use it.

I hope you’ll find this ^ not too boring. And thx again for your articles!

faiwer
faiwer
10 months ago

Danke für den Artikel! I always like how thoroughly you grasp the topic.

I think there’s another one nuance about “alle”, that can break someones (e.g. mine) mind.

Alle seine Sachen …blabla

instead of

Alle seinen Sachen … blabla

The first my thought was – shouldn’t it be here like “alle seineN“? I mean “Alle” is an Artikelwort, seine is an adjective (spoiler: it’s not), so it has to be ended with “en”, does it?

But later I found:

Als Artikelwort kann alle mit anderen Artikelwörtern wie diese, jene und seine kombiniert werden

So… Of course “seine” is not an adjective. It’s a pronoun. Ok, but aren’t they supposed to be conjugated in the same way as adjectives? Hm, dunno. Probably not. And I see “kombiniert” in the phrase above. So… it seems that this kind of sentences uses dual articles. Wow.

It explains a lot. But did I understand it properly?

Stepan Zubashev
Stepan Zubashev
10 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

> These endings are in line with the normal adjective and article endings.

Rather article endings, not adjective. I mean – yeah, in Dative they are the same, but it’s just a coincidence:

– Ich sehe alle seine schönen guten großen whatever-adjectiven Sachen

So the whole point is about forgetting about adjectives each time we deal with pronounce, because they are conjugated as articles.

Or maybe I understood it wrong :)

Dr.Rami
Dr.Rami
1 year ago

i saw many phrases like “all diese Dinge/Menchen” … where in the hell is the adjective ending?

faiwer
faiwer
10 months ago
Reply to  Dr.Rami

“diese” is not an adjective. Probably it’s the reason

Kimia
Kimia
1 year ago

Great article! in this sentence” Ich gebe allen ein Stück Kuchen ” why is it allen and not “allem”? isn’t that “allen” the dative part and “Kuchen” the accusative?

Ertac
Ertac
1 year ago

An amazing article!!!! Vielen Dank

Mic
Mic
1 year ago

Amazing article , solved the confusion i had about all and alle xD, and the quiz is useful. Vielen Dank

jmarks
jmarks
1 year ago

Emmanuel,
I love this blog! How many blog posts from 7 years ago are still relevant today?

A question:
If the following two sentences have essentially the same meaning (he is/are you nuts?),

Hast du sie noch alle?
Der hat sie doch nicht mehr alle!

can I equally say
Hast du sie noch nicht alle?
Der hat sie doch mehr alle!
?

That is, is the nicht meaningless in this idiom?

jmarks
jmarks
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thank you for clearing this up!

Perhaps my confusion was in the explanation for this really neat idiom:

“sie alle haben” is not “to be nuts”, but, perhaps, a state that, when negated, means nuts, i.e. “to be sane”.
More idiomatically “to keep it together”, perhaps? This phrase really refers to keeping one’s composure, rather than one’s sanity.

The negative might be expressed “to lose it (altogether)”.

In a harrowing situation: “Are you still keeping it together?”

Watching someone do something impulsive and stupid in traffic: “he’s lost it (for sure).

These aren’t the best translations, but perhaps they allow the learner to see how adding the negative works.

Have I got this completely wrong?

Enjiu
Enjiu
1 year ago

Hi Emanuel! I was wondering: is “alle” (as done/all used up) regional? or is it just colloquial?

Enjiu
Enjiu
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thank you for the answer!
And your work in general. It is particularly admirable.

SilentProwler
SilentProwler
2 years ago

I’m trying to wrap my head around the fact that “alle” can mean both “all” and “empty” in German. The only thing I can think of, is that words are “empty” so to speak and we people give it substance. So, when they say something like “Die ist alle”, then they mean the word itself is all that is left…That kinda sounds reasonable, I think….

david
david
2 years ago

Hi Emanuel, why are we using “allen” instead of “allem” in the sentence, “Ich gebe allen ein Stück Kuchen.”? shouldn’t “allen” be a Dative here? please enlighten me!

okay…i saw you have already answered it in a commend before…”allen” here is a plural dative! Tricky one! never mind :)

Vicki Allerding Sheridan
Vicki Allerding Sheridan
2 years ago

Wow, this isn’t the first time I’ve read where my last name Completely Described me to a tee.

AlexandraCIR
AlexandraCIR
2 years ago

Hello, Emanuel,

Your material was very useful and fun. I like the fact that I have finally found explanations which stop my brain from spinning the problem over and over again in my head. Things start to make sense. Yeeeeey!
However, I steel have a question ( Damn! Now I have to concentrate not to write nouns whit capital letter :) ). In your example :
Das alles macht keinen Sinn ,
shouldn’t alles be written as Alles because it is a noun ?

Vielen Dank im Voraus!

AlexandraCIR
AlexandraCIR
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thank you,

everything makes sense now. I considered Das as the definite article, hence the confusion. German can be tricky, on the other hand the same goes for Romanian ( my native language :) ) I guess I just have to keep at it till I get it right.

Well, all in all, problem is solved.

Have a nice day.

Tosakun
Tosakun
1 month ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Can you explain a bit more about how and where that splitting happens?

Does it work for all constructs like das alles, das allein. Or only das alles. Does it happen when it’s first in the sentence? Or can something else come between it when it comes after the verb. “Gestern hat das keinen Sinn alles gemacht”?

RogerH
2 years ago

And just as all is relative so is the word alle… yeah that expensive transition-seminar starts to pay out :- Roger discusses “pay out” and “pay off”

1. I have seen where the Lottery Organisers will pay out (verb) 50,000,000 dollars.
2. Emanuel’s site has recovered all its development expenses and it will soon pay off (verb) for the owner/s of the site and the employees !!!
3. Because of this big pay-off (noun) it will soon be listed for a huge amount of new capital on the Stock Exchange !! [Grammar examples only !!]
4. The new shareholders will be hoping for a big pay-out (noun).
5. Alternatively the recent pay-offs will result in millions of free members (LOL)
Roger is a dreamer … maybe Emanuel is also?
Or maybe this is the true future ?

Roger at "English is Easy" ;-)
Roger at "English is Easy" ;-)
2 years ago

I have girl-friend whose name is Genevieve. She wishes to point out that “genetive” is spelled genitive ;-)

A.Imtinan
A.Imtinan
3 years ago

Another great post man. Clears up my confusion regarding alles/ alle/ allem. Thanks & keep up the good work.

bole1111
bole1111
3 years ago

can someone send me in the e-mail oll this dokuments pleas
i like this so much

ubk
ubk
4 years ago

“Alle Kinder gehen in die Schule.
All kids go to school.”

There is a difference in English between “All kids go to school” and “All kids go to the school”. In the first one it may be different schools that the kids go to but in the second it is one specific school (perhaps you are talking about kids in the neighborhhod and the local school). Thus, I am confused about why the article was used in German but not in English. Does the German mean just school in general or some particular school? If it definitely means one or the other how is the other meaning said in German?

Duaa
Duaa
4 years ago

Wonderful article <3 I never really liked the whole (all and its inflicted forms) thing because in Arabic it's sooooo easy! There is one single word that can be used as "each/every" or "all" and is uninflicted so same for m, f, singular, plural, countable and uncountable :P

PeterB
PeterB
4 years ago

Thanks, Emanuel, for a great article. I’m still on my way to the intermediate level, and your articles help me a lot.

I’ve checked in Leo, and it seems that “alle” could also be used in singular, perhaps in the sense of “each”, as in “Aller Anfang ist schwer” or in other expressions “bei allem Respekt”.

So, I guess it would make it even more similar to “jeder”, as you write. And as you write “alle focuses on the group as a whole while jeder puts a little more emphasis on each individual”. Based on that, “bei jedem Respekt” would probably not work, but perhaps “Jeder Anfang ist schwer” is possible, although perhaps, this is not what people use. Please let me know.

OK, so just googled it, and at least, there is a song “Jeder Anfang ist schwer”.

PeterB
PeterB
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Yes, I was wondering about feminine nouns, since they would have the same “alle” form as the plural (except for dative), which is maybe why it sounds strange. Also, it is “the whole milk”, so “ganze” would work according to your rule.