Quantifier-Pronoun Flip

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Examples of Quantifier-Pronoun Flip

This study is a continuum of the designated study on Quantifiers. If you wish to learn all there is about Quantifiers, you may click this LINKOpens in new window. However, if your interest is based solely on Quantifier-Pronoun Flip, continue with this study.

When all, both, and each appear in an NP whose head is a pronoun, they must be followed by of, and the pronoun is therefore in the object form, as shown in example-11.

      • All (of ) his books got good reviews.
      • All of them got good reviews.
      • Both of them got good reviews.
      • Each of them got a good review.
      • All them got good reviews.

The quantifier and the pronoun can optionally switch positions through a rule called QUANTIFIER-PRONOUN FLIP.

As example-13 shows, when this happens, the pronoun, which no longer follows of, has the subject form.

      • All of them got good reviews.
    1. Quantifier-pronoun flip
      • They all got good reviews.

Quantifier-pronoun flip also applies to pronouns that are not sentence subjects, as is the case in example-13. In sentence-14b, the NP to which the flip applies is the object of the verb unpacked, so the flipped pronoun in -143c remains in the object form.

      • John unpacked all (of) his books.
      • John unpacked all of them.
      • John unpacked them all.

For some native speakers, quantifier-pronoun flip with each can apply only to subjects NPs. Applying it to object NPs, as is the case in example-14b), produces a questionable sequence as is in -14c.

      • John reviewed each of the books.
      • John reviewed each of them.
      • ? John reviewed them each.

Reducing Quantifier + Of + Pronoun Constructions

The sequence quantifier + of  + pronoun can be reduced by dropping of  and the pronoun. The quantifier then functions like a pronoun that must have an antecedentOpens in new window in an earlier part of the discourse.

Both the quantifier + of  + pronoun constructions in sentence-15a and reduced forms some and most in sentence-15b refers to the antecedent, the candidate that you interviewed, in the question.

    • Tom: What did you think of the candidates that you interviewed?
      • Susan: Some of them were pretty good, but most of them weren’t.
      • Some were pretty good, but most weren’t.

Meaning of Quantifiers

Quantifiers can be classified in terms of their meaning. Some quantifiers have a meaning of inclusiveness. That is, they refer to an entire group.

  • both refers to two members of a group of two,
  • few refers to a subgroup of the entire group,
  • all refers to the totality of members of a group of unspecified size.
  • every and each refer to single members of a group.

The difference between all,a few, and both on the one hand and each and every, is reflected in subject-verb agreement, as shown below in example-16.

  1. QuantifierMeaningExample
    allwhole groupAll (of) the recruits are over 18 years old.
    anysingle member{Any of these cell phones / Any cell phone} fits your requirements.
    bothtwo members Both (of the) recruits are over 18 years old.
    eachsingle members{Each of the recruits / Each recruits} is over 18 years old.
    everysingle members{Every one of the recruits / Every recruits} is over 18 years old.
    fewsmall group {A few of the recruits / Few recruits} are over 18 years old.

Other quantifiers are noninclusive and have a meaning related to size or quantity. These quantifiers can be classified by the relative size they indicate. For example, many and much refer to large quantities, some to a moderate quantity, and little and few to small quantities, as illustrated in example-17.

    1. Large quantity
      • He has many friends
    1. Moderate quantity
      • He has some friends
    1. Small quantity
      • He has few friends.

The difference in meaning between the quantifier + head noun pattern in 18) and the patterns shown in example-18 can be understood in terms of the dimensions of inclusiveness and size.

    1. Scientist in general
      • Few scientists would argue that global warming is not occurring.
    1. A specific group of scientist
      • A few scientists would argue that global warming is not occurring.

The meaning in sentence-18a is understood as “from the population comprising all scientists in the world” there are few that deny global warming is occurring. The meaning of sentence-18b is understood as “there is a specific group of scientists, and this group comprises just a few people” who deny the reality of global warming.

This distinction is also used in many English language teaching textbooks to explain the differences in meaning between particular quantifiers.

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