In the dictionary: at all

used in negative statements and questions to emphasize what you are saying

They’ve done nothing at all to try and put the problem right.

He’s not looking at all well.

‘Do you mind if I stay a little longer?’ ‘No, not at all.’

Has the situation improved at all?

But people do say "But many people think it is sad that she wanted to change her appearance at all." which is a positive sentence

Why do they use "at all" in positive sentences?

  • "Why would she want to change her appearance at all?" is perfectly valid. They are wondering why she wanted to change her appearance at all. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 25 '17 at 1:17
  • Even though "in the dictionary" is idiomatic, you should realize that no dictionary is the final word on any word or phrase. What you mean to say is "In a dictionary". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 25 '17 at 1:21
  • As a question, it is fine; and when you are saying it indirectly like that, I understand it as meaning "for any reason". I think the person above is saying "for any reason". – Nick Oct 25 '17 at 1:25

at all can be used with both negative and positive.

Say nothing at all. Keep quiet.

Say anything at all. Say whatever you like.

  • Yes, those examples work! Eureka! I don't think that "at all" in the second one means the same thing as her "at all" in the negative. That's the reason it was so confusing to me. – Nick Oct 25 '17 at 1:29

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