Language Arts The problem with knowing whether to use "all together" vs "altogether" is part of a larger problem shared with the word pairs "all right" and "alright" and "all ready" and "already." Learn how to differentiate between these easily confused words in this article.
There are several word sets in English in which all is joined with another root:
All right alright
All ready already
All together altogether
Since they don't all work the same way, and since they're common words, the best approach is to look at the whole group and see the pair all together and altogether in context.
All right is both an adjective and an adverb and is pronounced /AWL rite/. As an adjective it can have the following meanings:
Thelma agreed that my travel plans were all right.
2. safe, completely fine:
John was safely off the boat before the accident: he's all right.
You should try the bistro on Church Street: it's really all right.
As an adverb, all right, can have these meanings:
1. interjection to resume discussion, gather attention
All right, is everybody ready to get back to business?
2. to express certainty
The man in the black leather jacket and aviator shades? Yes, it was him all right.
3. sufficiently well
We don't have to replace Ralph: he's doing all right.
Unlike the closed up word in the other sets we are looking at, already is not an item with a separate meaning, but only a variant spelling of all right. It is judged by some to be wrong, and is therefore far more likely to be found in informal writing and in literature, in the context of dialogue.
All ready is an adverb and is pronounced /AWL REH dee/. All ready can have these meanings:
1. completely ready in every way
When I ask if you're all ready, I mean, “are you packed and dressed in your travel clothes, with your teeth brushed, your hair combed, your coat on, and in every other way prepared to leave for vacation?”
2. are you ready, every one of you?
We're not setting out on this climb until everyone has done an equipment check and verified with Geoff that everything is a-okay. Right now, we have about seven or eight people checked in. When we are all ready, and not before, I will give the signal to leave.
Already is an adverb that is pronounced /awl REHD ee/. Already can have these meanings:
1. prior to a specified time (which can be past or present)
When everyone jumped out and yelled surprise, Jill had already known what they were up to for at least five minutes, but she put on a good act.
2. so soon
Is it dinnertime already?
3. curt (and possibly offensive) intensifier: considered nonstandard by some
Would you be quiet already?
This conveys a level of annoyance and impatience and dominance that makes its effect pretty close to “shut up.” Constructions like this are worth avoiding unless you want to be considered rude.
All together is an adverb that is pronounced /AWL tuh GEHTH uhr/. It can have the following meanings:
1. at the same time
One, two, three, all together, sing: Happy Birthday to you . . .
2. As a group
Let's go to the movie at the drive-in all together: it's much more fun that way!
Altogether is an adverb that is pronounced /AWL tuh GEHTH uhr/. It can have the following meanings:
Wanda didn't take her poodle Mimi for behavior training until everyone else was altogether fed up with Mimi's disobedient and rowdy behavior in the office.
Today's deposit was $439 in cash and $588 in checks: $1027 altogether.
3. Considering everything;
Altogether, it wasn't such a bad trip, despite the sort of disastrous incident with the beehive. . . .
Differentiating All Together and Altogether
A mnemonic you can use to differentiate all together and altogether is to remember that all together - because it's two separate words - is the one that needs to get into a group and get in sync. This associates the meaning with the spelling to help you remember which of these easily confused words is which.