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Are the following phrases equally acceptable?

  1. a. Он взял автобус в заложники.
    b. Он взял весь автобус в заложники.

  2. a. Он съел тарелку.
    b. Он съел всю тарелку.

  3. a. Он договорился с домом.
    b. Он договорился со всем домом.

I also have a follow-up question. If examples are not equally acceptable, why is it? Is it the quantifier весь that somehow changes the meaning of the noun?

The follow-up question probably cannot be answered by merely referring to a credible source of information and requires some subjective explanation. I think that it is a normal situation when one talks about the theory of meaning. It would be nice, though, if a subjective explanation would work for all examples.

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If the context allows to tell apart metonymy and direct meaning unequivocally, then the quantification adjectives are not necessary. This is the case for all your examples: you can't really take a vehicle hostage, eat a utensil or negotiate with a building.

If the context does not allow such distinction, then an adjective would be required.

Compare:

Он воровал у фирмы

Он воровал у всей фирмы

The first sentence suggests that the subject stole from the company, while the second suggests he stole from its employees.

Your third example (договорился с домом), however, might be confusing in some contexts, as it's not clear whether the subject settled his matters with the house management or its inhabitants. A quantification adjective here would help to clarify the metonymy (container instead of contents or whole instead of a part).

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@Quassnoi gave an excellent answer, there in nothing to add there in general. As for you examples, to make it completely clear to you:

a. Он взял автобус в заложники.

The fact was that people in the bus became hostages.

b. Он взял весь автобус в заложники.

People in the bus became hostages. We emphasize on the fact that nobody has escaped.

a. Он съел тарелку.

He has eaten a dish.

b. Он съел всю тарелку.

Nothing left on the plate.

a. Он договорился с домом.

He has resolved the problem he probably had with tenants.

b. Он договорился со всем домом.

He hasn't missed anybody when he was resolving this issue.

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  • I just want to check if I understand you correctly. Do you think that the sentence "Он взял автобус в заложники" is acceptable?
    – Olga
    Jul 25 '12 at 22:24
  • @Olga It could be used but only in informal speech, because as you have mentioned it's not correct. I think it is implicitly referred to the people inside, we mean "он взял (людей) в автобусе в заложники / он взял автобус (людей) в заложники". It's unlikely to be used in news reports but as I have heard in colloquial speech people use it sometimes.
    – Denis
    Jul 26 '12 at 0:42
  • Thanks for the answer. Btw, I didn't say it was (not) correct =)
    – Olga
    Jul 26 '12 at 7:49

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