I thought that всё referred to inanimate/abstract concepts - like in всё равно or это всё - and все was used with animate - like все студенты. But I've seen the two used in virtually the same contexts recently, and I'm confused as to the difference between them. Is все just an alternate spelling of всё for keyboards without the ё diacritic? Is there a semantic or syntactical difference between them?
всё can be spelled
все, when it's possible to distinguish two words using available context.
Ё) is used when referring to neuter gender singular nouns:
всё время(compare masculine
весь путьand feminine
забрызгал всё окно
всё молоко(compare feminine
Е) is used when referring to plural nouns:
Also, there are some idioms, like one you mentioned —
and unchangeable expressions, like
Substituting Ё with Е.
jwalker posted a link to this question about
Ё can be substituted for
Е in most words. It is not a rule but
Ё is not used very often in printed texts. Usually, it's possible to distinguish when
Ё from the context.
It's highly recommended to use
- when needed to distinguish from the similar word with
Е, for example:
узна́ем(future tense first person plural of
узнаём(present tense first person plural of
совершённый(participle from verb
совершенный(adjective, meaning perfect)
- In dictionaries, textbooks for language learners
- In little-known, obscure, and loanwords
A small addendum about substitution and context. In texts for language learners
ё should always be used. However, if you look into texts by native speakers, esp. into somewhat literature-based texts for native speakers,
ё is mostly replaced with an
So, if a literature example from a non-adapted book does not make sense, consider thinking if a
ё replacement did not take place. Basing on above examples, if you see
Вася выпил все молоко.
this is actually a
всё молоко, but a native speaker is expected to infer this from the context.
Please, see here how the determinative pronoun весь declines. The difference between все and всё is obvious there.
Also note the use of Е as a shorthand for Ё.