Floating quantifiers, discussion in UD


the examples are:

  1. they all go out.
  2. they all had gone.
  3. John all had gone.
  4. John all has eaten the candies.

The discussion started with my reading that 1 and 2 are ambiguous to me. Sentences 3 and 4 are grammatical or not? ERG accepted both. Comments are welcome.

BTW, the sentence 5 is not parsed by ERG, but it should, right? The sentence 6 is correctly parsed.

  1. Then, I think that indicates a problem with or limitation of the grammar.
  2. Then, I think that indicates a problem or limitation of the grammar.


Sentences 3 and 4 and semantically implausible, but you can have a floating quantifier with a grammatically singular subject:

  • The family has all left

(Personally, I prefer “the family have all left”, but singular/plural verb agreement with collective nouns is known to vary across varieties of English.)

If “John” is a name for a group of people, 3 and 4 become much more reasonable.


Hi @guyemerson, So (3) and (4) are ERG mistakes? In the two cases, the analysis makes all adverb, not a quantifier.


Floating quantifiers are treated as adverbs in the ERG. The analyses for sentences 3 and 4 are not mistakes, just semantically weird.


to be clear, syntactically they are adverbs (or at least, much more like adverbs than determiners). Semantically, there have been analyses which make them VP modifiers - but I haven’t read the literature since Craige Roberts thesis (which is a long time ago). floated ‘each’ (at least) seems to be more about distributivity rather than being a true quantifier. historically, ‘every’ is apparently always found as a modifier of ‘each’, seemingly having the effect of adding universality to the distributivity (I haven’t had time to check this properly).