Using the Spanish Word ‘Todo’

Word usually means ‘all’ or ‘every’

Beach in the Canary Islands.
Todos fueron a la playa de las Canarias. (They all went to the Canary Islands beach.).

Juan Ramón Rodríguez Sosa / Creative Commons.

Todo is a common Spanish adjective and pronoun that typically means "all" or "every." Like other Spanish adjectives, todo must match the noun it refers to in number and gender; when used as a pronoun, it also changes with number and gender according to the noun it replaces.

Using Todo As an Adjective

As an adjective (or a determiner according to some grammatical classifications), todo can come either directly before the noun or frequently before the definite article that comes before a noun. In this usage, todo is typically the equivalent of the English "all" before a plural noun or "every" or "each" before a singular noun.

  • Vamos a tomar todas las medidas apropiadas para eliminar la discriminación. (We are going to take all appropriate means to eliminate discrimination.)
  • Tenemos zapatos de todos tipos y colores. (We have shoes of all types and colors.)
  • Todo el tiempo estoy pensando en ti. (I am thinking about you all the time.)
  • Todas las personas son iguales, pero unas son más iguales que otras. (All persons are equal, but some are more equal than others.)
  • El papa ha afirmado que toda persona tiene derecho a emigrar. (The pope has stated that each person has the right to emigrate.)

When it comes before a singular noun, todo can also be used similarly to the English phrases "all of" or "the entire."

  • Hawái es el estado con mayor porcentaje de gente asiática de todo Estados Unidos. (Hawaii is the state with the highest percentage of Asian people in all of the United States.)
  • Quiero un masaje en todo mi cuerpo. (I want a massage over my entire body.)
  • Casi todo el sistema solar por volumen parece ser un vacío nulo. (Almost the entire solar system seems to be empty space.)

Using Todo As a Pronoun

As a pronoun, todo and its variations typically have the meaning of "all," although the context can require other translations:

  • Todo es posible. (Everything is possible.)
  • Todos fueron a la playa. (They all went to the beach. Or, everyone went to the beach.)
  • Todas estamos bajo mucha presión. (All of us are under a lot of pressure.)
  • Todo puede cambiar de un segundo. (Everything can change in a second.)
  • Todo está bien. (All is well.)
  • No todos quieren hacer negocio en Internet. (Not everyone wants to do business on the Internet.)
  • A pesar de todo tenemos algo que festejar. (Despite everything, we have something to celebrate.)

Miscellaneous Uses for Todo

Sometimes, todo can be used to add emphasis:

  • El corazón latía a toda velocidad cuando te vi. (My heart was beating at a high speed when I saw you.)
  • Te lo mostramos con todo detalle. (We're showing it to you in great detail.)
  • Visitar Manzanillo es toda una aventura. (Visiting Manzanillo is quite an adventure.)

Todo and its variations are used in various phrases and idioms:

  • ante todo — primarily, principally, above everything
  • a pesar de todo — in spite of everything
  • así y todo — nevertheless, in spite of everything
  • a todo color — in full color
  • a todo meter — at full speed, at full force
  • a todo pulmón — with all one's might (a pulmón is a lung)
  • casi todo — almost everything
  • con todo — nevertheless, in spite of everything
  • del todo — entirely, without exception
  • de todas todas — with absolute certainty
  • de todo en todo — absolutely
  • en todo y por todo — under all circumstances
  • por todo, por todas — in total
  • sobre todo — primarily, principally, above everything
  • todo el mundo — everyone

Using Todo With a Plural Form of Ser

It is common in Spanish for a sentence of the form "todo + conjugated ser + plural predicate" to use a plural form of ser. The phenomenon, which contrasts with English usage, can be seen in these examples:

  • No todo son millonarios en el béisbol profesional. (Not everyone is a millionaire in professional baseball.)
  • Todo son problemas. (Everything is a problem.)
  • Todo son buenas noticias. (It's all good news.)
  • Todo eran mentiras. (It was all lies.)

Grammatically, you can think of these as sentences using an inverted word order which which the noun after ser becomes the subject. It is also possible to form sentences in a way that will seem more familiar to English speakers.

  • Los detalles son todo. (Details are everything.)
  • Los datos no son todo. (Data isn't everything.)

Key Takeaways

  • Todo and its three others forms (toda, todos, and todas) can be used as the equivalents of English words and phrases that include "all," "all of," "the entire," "each," and "every."
  • As adjective or pronoun, todo must match the noun it refers to in number and gender.
  • Todo is sometimes used to add emphasis.
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Erichsen, Gerald. "Using the Spanish Word ‘Todo’." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Erichsen, Gerald. (2023, April 5). Using the Spanish Word ‘Todo’. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Using the Spanish Word ‘Todo’." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).