Some words in English start out as two separate words (e.g., mail box) and fuse into a single word (e.g., mailbox) over time. Are all together and altogether another example of this linguistic phenomenon? Or are they actually distinct terms?
Take a guess. Because we’re about to break down the difference between all together vs. altogether.
All together vs. altogether are distinct words
Just like loathe vs. loath, all together vs. altogether aren’t that different from one another. Even though all together is two words and altogether is one word, they sound the same when you say them out loud. And except for the extra l and space in all together, they’re spelled the same way too. But all together vs. altogether are separate terms with distinct definitions. Here’s why:
Let’s start with all together. All together means together as a group. You would use it in sentences like these:
- “Let’s sing “Happy Birthday” all together.”
- “They walked into the room all together.”
- “The summary Marshall provided at the end helped to bring the ideas all together.”
When you’re thinking about the difference between all together vs. altogether, remember that all together means that people or things are coming together as a group.
So now you know what all together means. But what about altogether?
Altogether means entirely or on the whole. For example, here’s how you would use it in a sentence:
- “Altogether, it seemed like a good strategy.”
- “She has three pairs of skates altogether.”
- “If they can’t leave by the end of the day, they might cancel the trip altogether.”
When you’re thinking about the difference between all together vs. altogether, remember that altogether means entirely or on balance.
How to remember the difference between all together vs. altogether
Like with loathe vs. loath, we don’t have any good strategies for remembering the difference between all together vs. altogether. (But if you do, we’d love to hear about them!)
But here’s what we do have: Use all together if you can replace it with the phrase together as a group and your sentence will still make sense:
- “They walked into the room together as a group.”
In comparison, use altogether if you can replace it with entirely or on the whole and your sentence will still make sense:
- “On the whole, it seemed like a good strategy.”
Altogether looks like it could be a modern version of all together. But it’s not. All together vs. altogether are two separate terms. Use all together to say together as a group. And use altogether to say entirely or on the whole.
Would you use loathe or loath in this sentence: “I _____ commercial holidays”? Find the answer in our post on the difference between loathe vs. loath.