Is it “altogether” or “all together”?

Do you know the difference between “all together” and “altogether”?

In speaking, it’s not a problem because they sound the same. But when it comes to writing, you might wonder, “What’s the difference?”

I recently wondered the same thing. Here’s a paragraph that I wrote in an email for our Communicate with Confidence online course students. Can you identify which paragraph is the right one?

  1. As you may already know, there will be 5 modules all together. We’ll be releasing them week by week, and we recommend that you work on each module from beginning to end.
  2. As you may already know, there will be 5 modules altogether. We’ll be releasing them week by week, and we recommend that you work on each module from beginning to end.

The correct one is Paragraph 2, “altogether”. In this particular paragraph “altogether” means “in total”.

So how do you remember which one to use?

The word “altogether” can be used to replace “completely”, “on the whole” or “in total”. It is an adverb – a word that describes a verb, an adjective or another adverb. Check out these examples:

  • Altogether, the children managed to raise RM1,000 from selling cakes and biscuits to their friends and neighbours.
  • The Prime Ministers’s announcement of Election Day as a holiday was altogether unexpected.
  • Some of the articles we read were altogether impossible to understand.

The phrase “all together” means “all in one place”,”in a group” or “all at once”. It is used to describe a group of something (people, animals, objects) that is literally or metaphorically together. Here are a few examples:

  • All together, now: Happy birthday to you!
  • The recent flood in our hometown was devastating, but it has brought us all together as we helped those in need.
  • After her family lost almost everything, Fatin worked hard to hold it all together.

Just remember this. “Altogether” can have three different meanings which are:

i) completely – synonyms include “totally” or “very”
ii) in total – synonyms include “in sum”, “in all”
iii) overall – synonyms include “on the whole” or “mostly”

For anything that does not mean the above, use “all together”.

I hope this post is helpful for you in understanding the difference between “all together” and “altogether”. If so, leave us a comment below and we’ll talk to you again next week!

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