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I saw this in a lesson:

你都会去吗?

In this context, refers to islands, as in "Will you go to all of them [the islands]?" But, when I hear that my brain thinks refers to the subject, as in "Will all of you go?"

Could refer to both the subject and the object, depending on context? How would one translate, "Will all of you go to all of them?" ?

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For the last one you can try this: "你们每一个都会去所有的岛屿吗?" (Will everyone of you visit all of the islands?) –  杨以轩 Dec 5 '13 at 8:27

4 Answers 4

Yes, 都 can refer to either subject or objects.

  1. When subject is plural, 都 refer to "all" of the subject.

    For example:

    你们都来嘛?Are all of you coming?

    同学们都交按时交了作业。 All of the students in the class handed in their homework in time.

  2. When subject is single, and object is plural, then 都 refers to "all" of the object.

    For example:

    你把糖果都吃了? Did you eat all of the candy?

    这些衣服你都买吗 ? Are you going to buy all of those clothes?

    那些岛屿你都会去吗?Will you (single) go to all of the islands?

  3. When both subject and object are plural, if only using 都, it is ambiguous as we don't know if it refers to the subject or object or both. So we either need to draw more info from the context, or if no context, we will have to ask the speaker to clarify on this.

    For example:

    那些岛屿你们都会去吗?Will (all of ?)you (plural) go to (all of?) the islands?

    When we mean all of the subject AND all of the object, then we will have to use TWO words meaning "all" (所有/全部/都/全/全都) together.

    For example:

    你们都交了全部的作业嘛? Did all of you guys hand in all the homework?

    你们都会去所有的那些岛屿吗?Will all of you (plural) go to all of the islands?

    But sometimes it is still ambiguous even we use TWO such words.

    For exmaple:

    所有的那些岛屿你们都会去吗?

    In this sentence, 所有 refers to the islands for sure, no doubt about it. But 都 may refer to either object or subject. So we still need to ask the speaker to clarify on it.

    For this sentence, if there is no context, and we are not able to ask the speaker to clarify, then my intuition of interpreting this sentence is that both 所有 and 都 refer to islands.

Conclusion: The things 都 refers to are somehow impacted by the sentence structure.

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As mentioned previously, 都 simply means 'all', and what it really refers to purely depends on the context.

In this example sentence, the singular form of 'you' (你) is used, and 'all of you (singular)' does not make much sense. So it would not be usually understood this way. The interpretation that makes the most sense would be:

"Will you go to all?"

However, there is another interpretation: 都 can be understood as 'even' sometimes. So this sentence, without any context, can be also interpreted as

"Even you will go?"

Note that in speaking, the first and second interpretations can be distinguished by stressing on different syllables (on 都 for the first, and on 你 for the second), but there is no way to tell when it is written out if no context is provided.

EDIT:

I would not normally interpret this sentence as 'Will you also go'. The more common way to say the latter (at least in most parts of mainland China) is '你**会去吗?' However, my observation is that people from Hong Kong tend to use '都' when they really mean the Mandarin '也'(too, also), AND VICE VERSA. So, this sentence may be understood as 'Will you also go' in Hong Kong (correct me if I am wrong), but less likely in Mainland China.

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+1. Before reading the rest of the question, I instantly read, “你都会去吗?” as “Will even you be going?”. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 6 '13 at 14:39

From what i read from the text i would translate it as: "Will you also go?"

"Will all of you" I would translate as 你們都會

So "Will all of you go to all of them" 你們都會去全部嗎?

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So adding 你們 effectively changes the context of , so that a whole new grammar pattern needs to used when referring to objects? –  Ken Oh Dec 4 '13 at 14:11

We distinguish thou and you in Chinese, so that it is not possible here for 都 to be you all, as you here is singular.

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