9 September 2010
Today’s grammar review covers common mistakes in the use of the following:
-all ready & already
-all together & altogether
-all right & alright
Find the mistakes
Which sentence in each pair below is correct – A or B?
1A. We’re already to go camping next weekend.
1B. We’re all ready to go camping next weekend.
2A. We all ready went camping last weekend.
2B. We already went camping last weekend.
3A. Let’s go altogether to the restaurant.
3B. Let’s go all together to the restaurant.
4A. The service in that restaurant is all together the worst I’ve seen.
4B. The service in that restaurant is altogether the worst I’ve seen.
5A. The answers on the test were alright.
5B. The answers on the test were all right.
6A. I’m over the flu and I feel alright.
6B. I’m over the flu and I feel all right.
Find the meaning
Did you choose any of the ‘A’ answers? Sorry, but they’re all wrong! The correct answers are the ‘B’ sentences.
Can you explain why the ‘A’ sentences are correct?
Can you explain why the ‘B’ sentences are not?
If not, then look up in a dictionary the words/expressions from the sentences you got incorrect and think about them for a few minutes before you continue reading.
* * * * *
All ready & already
‘All ready’ means ‘everything is prepared’ or ‘everyone is prepared’.
We’re all ready to go camping next weekend. (ie, everyone is ready to go)
We got the food and drinks all ready to be packed. (ie, everything is ready to be packed)
‘Already’ is an adverb that means ‘before the time in question’ or ‘as early or as soon as this’:
We already went camping last weekend.
I already knew that. (ie, before you just told me about it)
Warning: Beware of another problem with ‘already’.
Remember – ‘already’ means that something was done before the time you’re talking about it. For example, when you say ‘I’ve already done it’ – it means that you did something before the person you’re speaking to talked with you about it.
Let me illustrate. Sometimes I’ll write an email to a colleague asking them to do something – for example ‘Please check this document’. They then write back and say ‘I’ve already checked it.’ This response can be confusing. It means that the person checked the document even before I asked them to. The correct response should be ‘I’ve checked the document’ – without using the word ‘already’.
All together & altogether
‘All together’ means ‘everyone together’ or ‘everything together’:
Let’s go all together to the restaurant.
They sat all together at the theater.
Mary put the gifts all together in a large box.
Sometimes you’ll see the verb between ‘all’ and ‘together’:
Let’s all go together to the restaurant.
They all sat together at the theater.
The gifts were all put together in a large box.
‘Altogether’ means ‘entirely’:
The service in that restaurant is altogether the worst I’ve seen.
I don’t altogether agree with that assessment.
All right & alright
From the sentences above, you’ll notice two primary meanings of ‘all right’:
1. Completely correct:
The answers on the test were all right. (ie, they were all correct)
2. Okay, satisfactory:
I’m over the flu and I feel all right. (ie, I feel okay/satisfactory)
All right – go ahead. (ie, Okay – go ahead)
The problem with ‘alright’ is that the spelling is non-standard. But this non-standard spelling is used so often that some grammar experts accept its use. You’ll notice in some dictionaries that it’s listed as an alternate form of ‘all right’.
This kind of evolution happens quite often in languages. Words or grammatical structures that were previously considered non-standard become standard because of how frequently people use them.
Personally, I prefer the standard spelling ‘all right’ for both meanings of the term. And it’s just as easy to write two words (all right) as it is to write one word (alright). So my argument is, why not keep using the standard form?
Do you make these mistakes?
Check the documents you write for the correct use of these words – all ready/already; all together/altogether; all right/alright.
If you notice that you use any of them incorrectly, focus on correcting them for a full month. Write them on a post-it note and stick it on your computer monitor so that you remember what to check. This is how to permanently correct ingrained mistakes.
And let me know if you have any questions or other feedback about ‘Grammar Bite #1’.