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:


No need to beat around the bush here, alle looks a lot like the English all and the two words mean the same… most of the time.
But it wouldn’t be German, were there not the 2 other meanings of alle that do not have anything to do with all at all … and we just stumbled upon one of them… 

not at all is translated NOT translated with alle. It is translated as überhaupt nicht.
is not used in that very occasion.

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

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.
But let’s look at what the 2 have in common first.

Alle means all, but with one big constraint: in German whatever is all has to be somewhat plural.

  • 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.

If the thing you talk about is just one thing as in all my life or all my body, alle is not the correct word. In these cases you have to use ganze.

  • 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.

If you are not sure as to what the difference is then check whether you can replace all by the whole and if so ganze is your word.
Now what about non-countable things like water or money… feels strange to label money as non countable by the way but you cannot have 3 moneys so… :). Anyway… in these cases you can use either one so alle or ganze is fine with the little adjustment of taking away the e of alle.

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

As you can see in the example above alle and ganze are in different positions… not that I am going to explain that difference… I mean of course I know… it’s just… well… uhm…  we have more important things to do.

So let’s get back to alle and talk about that a little more because it also often occurs as everyone… and it can dress up in cases.

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

Now what is the difference to the other everyone – jeder/s/e/m/.. you may ask? Well, I think the shortest answer is that alle focuses on the group as a whole while jeder puts a little more emphasis on each individual. Important to realize is that alle is a plural so the verb has to be used in the they-form. For jeder it would be the he-form.
By the way, if you have to say everything or you are using all in sense of everything you have to add a little s to alle to get the correct translation… alles, and this is a singular word.

  • 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 just as all is relative so is the word alle… yeah that expensive transition-seminar starts to pay out…. In sense of time alle is the translation of every.

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

Thus far we are not so far away from all as we all… sorry just can’t resist… know it. But the following meaning sure as shit is.  Beeeehooooooold:

  • Wir hatten drei Kuchen aber jetzt sind alle alle.

And yet again German has easily won the stupid looking phrase of the day. The sentence is correct, understandable and might be uttered this way in daily conversation. But what does it mean? We had 3 cakes but now they are all all? No! Because the second alle means finished in this case. There is not really a good one word translation for this meaning of alle in English. You would use a phrasing like out of something or all gone instead. Examples:

  • 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.

It is even used for persons in a way.

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

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?  (pron.: hust doo zee nough uhlluh?)
  • 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 thus we have reached the end. Das war alles für heute.
If you have questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.