All of the Sudden vs All of a Sudden – Which is Correct?

Photo of author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Lately, I’ve been seeing people saying, “all of the sudden” instead of “all of a sudden.” But which one is correct? It drives me insane because, to me, one sounds incorrect.

All of a sudden is the correct idiomatic expression, which means suddenly. Keep reading to understand the difference between all of a sudden and all of the sudden. Learn its definition, origin, and some examples of the phrase in a sentence.

Is it All of a Sudden or All of the Sudden?

Grammarist Article Graphic V3 30

All of a sudden and all of the sudden both have one definition, believe it or not. However, the more appropriate term to use is all of a sudden. It’s what I’ve always used when writing and speaking. I couldn’t find an explanation for why a sudden is correct and the sudden is wrong. Many writers just happened to use a sudden more.

All of a Sudden Meaning

All of a sudden is an adverb phrase you can use to describe something that happens at once or without any warning. This idiomatic expression is a creative way to say suddenly or out of nowhere.

All of a sudden does not grammatically make sense. But almost every idiom does not make sense, right? That’s why it’s essential to look at its origin.

This idiomatic expression comes from an old noun, sudden, which is rarely used on its own today. It was used with the article a, such as in Shakespeare’s 1596 play The Taming of the Shrew.

In his play, Shakespeare wrote, “Is it possible that love should of a sodaine [sudden] take such hold?”

Sudden comes from the Middle English word sodeyn or sodain, meaning immediate. In Anglo-Norman, it’s sodein. Meanwhile, the Old French term is sodain or subdain.

All of a Sudden Synonyms

If you do not want to say all of a sudden, here are some alternative words and phrases to use.

  • Suddenly.
  • Immediately.
  • Straight away.
  • At once.
  • Instantly.
  • In an instant.
  • In a trice.
  • Swiftly.
  • Promptly.
  • Without notice.
  • Like a shot.
  • On the spur of the moment.
  • Straight off.
  • Out of the blue.
  • Before you can say knife.
  • In a flash.
  • In a jiffy.
  • Unexpectedly.
  • All at once.

All of the Sudden Meaning

It’s reasonable for many writers to mistakenly use all of the sudden. Previous writings also use the article the before sudden. However, a sudden was still more popular.

Below is an example of Henry Barrow’s quote from John Greenwood’s A Collection of Certaine Sclaunderous Articles in 1590.

“I was compelled to answer of the sodaine [sudden] unto the articles.”

Many grammarians also prefer a sudden because a describes the general or unknown noun, sudden.

Trick to Remember the Difference Between Them

You don’t have to remember the difference between all of a sudden and all of the sudden. In fact, you should completely forget all of the sudden, in my opinion.

Always use the shorter phrase all of a sudden, no matter what, when, and how you write. Remember that a is an indefinite article, and the noun sudden is indefinite or too general. You might also want to make your written document more concise by simply saying suddenly.

All of a Sudden in a Sentence

Here are some sentences that use all of a sudden.

  • You used to criticize my music taste in high school. Now all of a sudden, you’re attending the concert of the band you’ve judged me for liking.
  • All of a sudden, I felt terrible for lashing out at him.
  • Her piano solo started slow and then became powerful all of a sudden.
  • Connor was walking at night, and all of a sudden began to scream.
  • Julie Chin, a television news anchor in Oklahoma, was telling viewers about a local event connected to the now scrubbed launch of the Artemis I rocket over the weekend when, all of a sudden, she was struggling to speak. [New York Times]
  • Shadow Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews says she supports the government’s decision to raise the skilled migration cap but it doesn’t mean “all of a sudden people are going to start arriving” in Australia. [SkyNews Australia]

Use “All of a Sudden”

If you don’t want people cringing at your writing or speech, use the correct phrase all of a sudden. Grammar rules state that a is the preferred article for something too general or unknown.

I hope this article on all of a sudden vs. all of the sudden has helped you remember which phrase to use. Keep learning more idioms so you can creatively express yourself!