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yí qiè
pro. everything
Discussion of
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In this post, we try to analyze the difference between 一切 and 所有:
1. Nouns can be divided into three categories:
superordinate category (哺乳动物 mammals); basic-level category (猫 cat), and subordinate category (波斯猫 Persian cats).
1a. When 所有 defines a basic-level category noun or a subordinate category noun, it cannot be replaced by 一切. E.g. we can say 所有猫, 所有波斯猫, but we cannot say 一切猫、一切波斯猫。
1b. When defining a superordinate category word, 所有 and 一切 can replace each other. E.g. we can choose to say either 一切哺乳动物 or 所有哺乳动物. They are both correct.

2. When 一切 is used independently (used alone), we cannot replace it with 所有.
E.g. 一切都结束了。It's all over. We cannot replace 一切 in this sentence with 所有.

3.In a negative sentence, when the phrase appears as an object (whether it's an object after a verb or after preposition), we usually use 一切 in the phrase.
E.g. 不惜一切代价

4. In imperative sentences (when giving an order), exclamatory sentences, rhetorical questions, etc. and other highly subjective sentences, when the phrase appears as part of a object (whether it's an object after a verb or after preposition), we usually use 一切.
E.g. 我付出的一切努力都是为了你!

The root of the difference between 所有 and 一切 lies in their semantics: 所有 refers to the quantity, the number, every single one of a certain kind; 一切 refers to all the categories and types within a concept.
E.g. 所有人都到齐了. In this sentence, each member of the group is "人", and 所有 refers to every single one of them.
E.g. 我付出的一切努力都是为了你!In this sentence, the concept is 努力. Within this concept, there are different categories of specific actions, which can all be put into this one concept 努力. 一切 focuses on all the different categories or types within this concept.
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