Altogether vs. all together?

Altogether” is an adverb meaning ‘completely’ or ‘wholly.’ The phrase “all together” means ‘everything or everyone at once’ or ‘at the same time.’

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What is the difference between altogether and all together?

It’s easy to see why “altogether” and “all together” are commonly confused words. Both expressions have similar pronunciations, spellings, and grammatical functions, and yet they have different meanings. Tricky words like these are called homophones, and they’re prevalent throughout the English Language.  

The best way to avoid using the wrong word is to understand each term’s meaning thoroughly. To get started, you should know:  

  • The phrase “all together” references the entirety of objects that exist ‘in one place’ or ‘all at once.’ 
  • The word “altogether” is an adverb that means ‘in total,’in all,’ or ‘taken as a whole.’

Another key difference is that “all together” is a phrase of “all,” which encompass other phrases like: 

  • All along:the whole time, from the beginning.’ 
  • All the way:to perform or behave without limits or reservations.’ 
  • All but: ‘very nearly’ or ‘everything except.’ 
  • In all:in total’ or ‘altogether.’ 
  • All in all:all things considered’ or ‘for the most part.’ 

Notice the similarities? Phrases of “all” have different meanings because “all” can function as a predeterminer, determiner, pronoun, adverb, or noun. In the case of “all together,” “all” is a quantifying determiner because it references every person or thing in a group. 

You might be thinking, “but how does this make the phrase different from the adverb?” The key difference is that “all together” implies how everything or everyone’ occurred ‘at the same place’ or ‘all at once,’ while “altogether” only emphasizes the sum of ‘everything or everyone.’ 

What does altogether mean?

According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, the word “altogether” is an adverb that means ‘completely,’ ‘totally,’ ‘everything or everyone,’ or ‘in total’ (“Altogether” 47).  For example, 

  • “The student submitted a different worksheet altogether.” 
  • “Now that shoppers can order-to-pick-up, many retailers are canceling annual holiday events altogether.” 

Additionally, we can use “altogether” to mean ‘taking everything into consideration,on the whole,’ ‘for the most part,’ or ‘in general.’ For example, 

  • Altogether, there were several inconsistencies between the leader’s direct speech and the reported speech.” 
  • “The trip was fine altogether, but I wouldn’t go again.” 

What does “altogether” mean as a noun?

We use the noun “altogether” to mean ‘in the nude,’ but it’s generally found in the idiom ‘in the altogether.’ For example, 

  • “He modeled in the altogether for his art class.” 

Synonyms

[1] Basically, by and large, chiefly, generally, largely, mainly, mostly, overall, predominantly, primarily, principally, substantially. 

[2] All of, all the way, at length, completely, entirely, fully, in whole, thoroughly, through and through, totally, wholly. 

[3] Across the board, all around, all in all, broadly, collectively, generally, inclusively, loosely, on the whole, overall, together. 

Antonyms

[1] Barely, hardly, minimally, scarcely. 

[2] Halfway, incompletely, partially, partly. 

[3] Distinctly, literally, minutely, narrowly, restrictedly, singularly. 

Etymology of altogether

Altogether” comes from Middle English al together as a combination of Old English eall (‘all’) and tōgædere (‘together’). The word tōgædere (‘together’) consists of the preposition “to” (a West Germanic word akin to ‘gather’) and means ‘with or near another,’ ‘in combination,’ ‘united,’ or ‘in agreement.’

The “all” that’s combined with “together” functions as an adverb to mean ‘completely,’ ‘consisting entirely of,’ or, as a noun, ‘the whole of one’s possessions, energy, interests’ (41). 

What does all together mean?

All together” is a phrase that consists of “all” as a determiner and “together” as an adverb to mean ‘everyone or everything together’ or ‘all at once.’ For example,

  • “We were all together last time we went out.” 
  • “Let’s go see if we can go all together.” 
  • “If you mix the ingredients all together, the mix will not bake correctly.”

Synonyms

As a group, as one, in a mass. 

How to use altogether vs. all together in a sentence?

To use these tricky terms in a sentence correctly, Garner’s Modern English Usage suggests using “altogether” to mean ‘completely’ or ‘wholly,’ and “all together” for ‘at one place’ or ‘at the same time’ (Garner 42). 

Example sentences for altogether

  • “It turns out that the desire for solitude comes from a different trait altogether: independence.” –– The New York Times
  • “The sharp uptick in recent weeks is not altogether surprising…” –– The Middletown Press
  • “Among the most significant proposed changes is axing weather advisories altogether.” –– The Washington Post

Example sentences for all together

  • “Whether the Longhorns can put it all together on offense… remains to be seen.” –– CBS Sports
  • “… build the general shape of the face and tape it all together to avoid a gluey mess.” –– Vice 
  • “‘Right now having lunch all together indoors with windows closed is a problem…’”–– The New York Times

FAQ: Related to altogether vs. all together

Is “altogether” a contraction of “all together”?

No. One way to tell if a term is a contraction is to look for an apostrophe, such as in contractions like “can’t” (can not), “shouldn’t” (should not), or “let’s” (let us). 

Is there a hyphen in “all together”?

English grammar normally insists on using hyphens for prefixes like “all” before a noun. Since the “all” of “all right” is not a prefix, there’s no need for a hyphen. 

Additional reading

To learn more about tricky types of nouns, adverbs, and more, check The Word Counter’s recent posts on: 

Test Yourself!

Follow-up your grammar lesson with a review quiz on “altogether” vs. “all together.”

  1. True or false: the Old English form of “altogether” also consists of a single word. 
    a. True
    b. False
  2. The word altogether is a __________.
    a. Noun
    b. Adjective
    c. Adverb
    d. A and C
  3. The “all” of “all together” is a __________.
    a. Pronoun
    b. Determiner
    c. Suffix
    d. Abbreviation
  4. Which of the following matches the definition of “altogether” best? 
    a. Partially
    b. On the whole
    c. Completely
    d. Narrowly
  5. Which of the following matches the definition of “all together” best? 
    a. Wholly
    b. At one place
    c. At the same time
    d. B and C

Answers

  1. B
  2. D
  3. B
  4. C
  5. D

Sources

  1. “All.” The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 41–42. 
  2. Altogether.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2020, p. 47. 
  3. Altogether.” The Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  4. “Altogether.” The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 47. 
  5. All together.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  6. Cappucci, Mathew. “National Weather Service proposes eliminating ‘advisories’ to simplify severe warning system.” The Washington Post, 12 June 2020. 
  7. Eddy, Melissa. “Why Is Europe Keeping Its Schools Open, Despite New Lockdowns?The New York Times, 29 Oct 2020. 
  8. Hickerson, Robert. “I Missed My Coworkers, So I Made Masks of Their Faces.” Vice, Vice Media Group, 30 Oct 2020. 
  9. Garner, B. “Altogether; all together.” Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 42.
  10. Grant, Adam. “Yes, Even Introverts Can Be Lonely Right Now.The New York Times, 15 Apr 2020. 
  11. Fornelli, Tom. “College football picks, schedule.” CBS Sports, 30 Oct 2020. 
  12. Mill, Jeff. “East Hampton sees rise in COVID cases.” The Middletown Press, 30 Oct 2020. 
  13. Together.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  14. Perelman, Leslie C., et al. “Hyphens.” The Mayfield Handbook of Technical and Scientific Writing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, n.d.