Grammar All of a Sudden vs. All of the Sudden: Which Version Is Grammatically Correct? |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

All of a Sudden vs. All of the Sudden: Which Version Is Grammatically Correct?

When you want to describe something that took place in an instant, should you say all of a sudden or all of the sudden? Which is grammatically correct?

This is a common question. The two variations look and sound alike and are often used interchangeably by native English writers and speakers. In fact, there may be some people who might not realize there is any difference between the two phrasings at all.

There is a clear answer, however, which we will describe in today’s post.

The Correct Choice Between All of a Sudden and All of the Sudden

If you want to be grammatically correct, the version to choose is all of a sudden. In other words, the “a” in the phrase is the right one; “the” is not.

With that established, let’s further consider the context. When you say or write all of a sudden, you are describing something that seemed to happen in an instant unexpectedly.


I was trying to fold some laundry when all of a sudden my cat jumped on my back.

Jamie found herself single again all of a sudden after starting to think she’d found someone steady.

All of a sudden, hail and lightning rolled in from nowhere and turned our pleasant picnic into chaos.

You’ll notice that in each instance something quick and unexpected has taken place. That’s the type of situation this phrasing is made to describe.

Why So Many People Say “All of the Sudden”

Although grammar sources (such as this one) point out the correct usage of all of a sudden, you may still come across people who use the wrong version of the phrase, especially when speaking. That’s because “all of the sudden” is very close in pronunciation and may in fact be easier for some to say out loud. It’s also true that many have heard this incorrect usage from others and are unwittingly passing it along.

This can be common in English, as well as with any other living language. Because of regional differences in spelling, pronunciation, or idioms, it’s easy for spellings and versions of words that are almost correct to gain popularity.

Your mission as a precise and eloquent communicator, however, is to be accurate as opposed to nearly so. In this way, you ensure that others properly understand you while you reinforce correct usage that can continue because of you.

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