Saying everything in Japanese - Zenbu vs subete - Which one to use?

Do you know the words zenbu (全部) and subete (全て)? Both mean everything, whole, all, completely and all ... These are simple words that are part of our daily lives and can be confusing. In this article, we will try to understand the differences between these 2 words, see examples of how to use them correctly and also alternative words that can express the idea of everything.

Why are there 2 totally different ways of saying everything? Notice that both words are composed with kanji (全) which means whole, everything and complete. Several words make use of this ideogram as:

  • Encyclopedia - 大全 - taizen
  • Not everything, nothing - 全然 - zenzen
  • All members - 全員 - zen-in
  • Every country - 全国 - zenkoku
  • Whole, totally, certainly - 全体 - zentai
  • Annihilation, total destruction - 全滅 - zenmetsu
  • Entire school - 全校 - zenkou

Kanji (全) is also present in a verb widely used to express exasperation (mataku - 全く) which means really, entirely, in fact and completely. For this reason we must be careful when trying to use the words zenbu or upload when there is already another word or expression that indicates the totality of something.

What are the differences between subete and zenbu?

We can start by saying that subete (全て) is a word of Japanese origin while zenbu (全部) is composed only with ideograms and came from Chinese origin. The word zenbu is also composed with kanji (部) which indicates section, department, part, parcel, component and element. That is, the word zenbu is indicating all or part of each element. Remembering that the word upload it is usually written in ir べて hiragana.

It is believed that upload is a softer word, while zenbu seems to be more objective. Subete in some cases it may sound more beautiful and poetic. Both can be used as nouns, but only upload (全て) can be used as an adverb. Although there is no evidence for this, upload it is used in more formal situations than zenbu. Zenbu is often used to refer to money, counting and numbers.

Subete is a slightly more advanced vocabulary than zenbu, it is common for a 3 or 4 year old child to say zenbu when he wants all the toys, but when he reaches 10 years old he can go out saying uploadZenbu tends to be used more for everything that is finite or has a limit. It is common to hear zenbu (全部) more often than upload (全て).全部 feels more completely while 全て feels more like everything, everybody. Zenbu it is often used to refer to money, counting and numbers.

The word 全部 is not appropriate to use to indicate a group of people. We can conclude that すべて and 全部 are interchangeable in many situations. I don't understand, すべて tends to be used more in general themes, abstract ideas or something academic.

Saying everything in Japanese - zenbu vs subete - which one to use?

Examples of uses with 全部 and 全て

There are several things to explain about 全部 and 全て. To explain it better let's do this by showing examples. We use the の particle to say all or part of something. The problem is that 全部 (zenbu) can mean each part, so be careful not to get confused when forming sentences using the particle の. Here are some examples:

  • Suppose you want to say that you love everything about someone or something. You must use [Someone の全部…], if you use [全部の someone…] you are saying that you love every part of that someone or something. (If you love each part of everything in the same way kkkk) ..;
  • 彼は本を全部読んだ。
  • Kare wa hon o zenbu yonda;
  • He read the book from cover to cover

This sentence could also indicate the entire book or all books. However, the word zenbu can indicate the whole part of something.

  • それは全部で100ドルでした。
  • Sore wa zenbu from 100-dorudeshita;
  • It was a total of 100 dollars;

Using 全部 to indicate the total amount spent.

  • 我々は全部で、7人です。
  • Wareware for nananin desu zenbu;
  • We are a total of 7 people;

This phrase uses 全部 to say the whole of a group.

  • 生徒は全部で何人ですか?
  • What is the total number of students?
  • Seito wa zenbu de nanijindesu ka?
  • 神の目には人はすべて平等である。
  • Kami no me ni wa hito wa subete byōdōdearu;
  • In the sight of God, all men are equal;
  • すべてのバスは満員です。
  • Subete no basu wa man'indesu;
  • All buses are full;
  • その男はすべての希望を失った。
  • The man lost all hope;
  • Sono otoko wa subete no kibō o ushinatta;
  • お金がすべてではない。
  • Okane ga subset wanai;
  • Money is not everything
  • 全ての人間は平等である。
  • Subete no ningen wa byōdōdearu;
  • Every human being is equal;
  • それが全てです。
  • Sore ga subetedesu
  • That is all;


If you want to be sure which word is most correct in a sentence. Just paste part of it on google and see which one shows more results using the locator (CTRL + F).

Other words that mean “everything”

There are many similar words that can also indicate everything or whole. Let's see some below and mention their differences between 全部 and すべて.

有らゆる – Arayuru - This word indicates each and every, is equivalent to every English. While the words subete and zenbu can focus on each group, arayuru focuses on each individual member of the entire group.

全体 – Zentai - Whole, all - This word does not indicate everyone in general but all. For example - The whole page, the whole body or the totality of something. 絶対 – Zettai – It certainly indicates, definitely, absolutely and unconditionally. These are two very similar words with similar meanings, so be very careful not to confuse them.

全然 – Zenzen - While it means everything, its real meaning is nothing, not everything, none or not at all. Be careful, because colloquially that word can be completely inverted and indicate things like "totally" and "totally good".

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