What happens when two words become one? Sometimes, like with “all right” and “alright,” both terms mean the same thing. But then we have “all together” and “altogether.” These terms have a shared origin, but they have also developed distinct meanings in modern English. How, then, should we use them? And how can you avoid errors in your writing? Let us explain.
All Together (All in One Place or All in Unison)
Written as two words, “all together” usually means “all in one place”:
My family and I were all together on vacation last year.
A slightly different use is to mean “all in unison” or “all at the same time”:
Let’s sing a Christmas carol. All together now!
We can also separate the “all” and “together” in some sentences. For example:
All of my family and I were together on vacation last year.
Let’s all sing a Christmas carol together!
These mean the same as the equivalent sentences above, but they have been restructured. The key factor is that “all” is a determiner and “together” is an adverb in all of these sentences.
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Altogether (Entirely or Taken as a Whole)
Written as one word, “altogether” usually means “entirely” or “completely”:
I’m not altogether sure you used that word correctly.
Another use is to mean “takes as a whole” or “all things considered”:
Altogether, it was the best Christmas we ever had.
Finally, especially in the UK, “in the altogether” is a slang phrase for being nude. You probably don’t need to know this, as it’s quite rare. But we find the phrase amusing, so we thought we’d share.
All Together or Altogether?
These terms have developed distinct meanings over time, so make sure not to confuse them. Remember:
The two-word phrase all together means “all in one place” or “all in unison.”
Written as a single word, altogether means “entirely” or “taken as a whole.”
If you are unsure which to use, try replacing it in the sentence with “entirely” or “taken as a whole.” If the replacement fits, “altogether” will be correct. Otherwise, “all together” will be correct. And if you’d like any help checking the spelling in your writing, feel free to get in touch.