The Tricky Thing about Distributives in Grammar

What are distributives?

Distributives are a group of words in English grammar that determine parts of a group in relation to the whole group. These words show different ways of looking at the individual or part within a group. They express how a group is distributed, shared or divided.

There are nine distributives

English grammar has nine distributive words, and they are:

all

any

both

each

either

every

half

neither

none

How to use distributives

There are some special rules when using distributes in grammar. Let us take you through them.

Both, neither, either

Both, neither and either are used to refer to pairs. They can only be used for two.

For example:

I’ll buy both books.

I’ll buy either book.

I’ll buy neither book.

Distributives - both, neither, either

Both refers to the whole pair, i.e. two. So the assumption is that when you use both, you mean two. Both is only used with plural nouns.

For example:

I’m so sorry. Both books are sold out.

Both of us are too tired to come to dinner tonight.

Either and neither, on the other hand, refer to one of a pair. These words are usually used with singular nouns.

For example:

I’m fine with either book.

This is where it gets tricky. You can use neither and either with the preposition ‘of’ to refer to both items in the pair.

For example:

I’m fine with either of these books.

Distributives - both, neither, either

Any, each, every

Any, each and every are distributives that refer to an individual part of a group.

Any can refer to one or many and used with countable and uncountable nouns.

For example:

Any of these four books would be interesting to read.

Any time works for me to meet for a walk in the park.

Each and every are only used with single, countable nouns.

For example:

I read a new chapter each day.

Every book on this shelf is about history.

Distributives - any, each, every

All, none

All or none refers to the whole group. All refers to the whole group and none refers to no part of the group.

For example:

I want to read all the books on this shelf.

None of these books interest me.

All is also a determiner, used before plural nouns or uncountable nouns.

For example:

All students are welcome to attend the Halloween party.

I like to read all the time.

Distributives - all, none

Half

Half refers to 50 per cent of a group. Half can be used with singular and plural nouns.

For example:

Half the students decided to attend the Halloween party.

Anya was asleep for half the party.

Half can also be used with the preposition ‘of’.

Ted loved the pumpkin pie so much, he ate half of it.

Distributives - half

Half can also be used with measurement.

For example:

It’s half past twelve.

Use half a pint of milk for the bread recipe.