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Is there any difference between "alright" and "all right"?

I can find both forms in different articles (especially on the Internet), although all right seems to be more common.

I was wondering if both forms are acceptable or whether it is some sort of difference between American and British English or just a common mistake?

3

I checked four dictionaries and they all agreed that "alright" is an informal equivalent of "all right." However, informal doesn't mean wrong; it merely means informal. Thus, "alright" is perfectly acceptable in informal contexts.

11

Language is always changing, and most often in the direction of simplification. You can even see the evolution happening before your own eyes. "All ready" became "already"; "all right" is in the process, through usage and repetition, of becoming "alright" (if not in fact "a'ight"). It is already accepted as an informal alternative to "all right" and I predict that it will supplant the two-word version altogether (!) except in the most formal writing (e.g., academic papers) within the lifetimes of many of us.

4

I would say that yes, there are contexts where only "all right" is acceptable. As an example: Are any of the answers wrong? No, they are all right i.e., all of them are correct.

I have found that alright seems to be following the example of all ready vs. already and all together vs. altogether. In both cases, as I did above, one could add the phrase "of them are" to each of the former terms and make it completely clear what is meant, whereas each of the latter terms have entirely different meanings.

Alright has come to mean acceptable, okay, and safe, as in "the kids are alright" - very much a comforting phrase if there has been some kind of accident or the like! "The kids are all right" in that same context would have an extremely confusing connotation: the kids would not all be correct after an accident.

I would also like to point out that the way a word or phrase achieves acceptance and legitimacy is by usage, and "alright" certainly has this on its side!

3

It seems that historically, all right was the only accepted version. Alright is more recent, and can either be seen as a shortened form of all right, or can have a slightly different meaning.

Something that is all right is in order, and we are at peace with it. Something that is alright can be seen as simply satisfactory.

  • 1
    Can you show evidence to back up your explanation of the differences in meaning? – Scott Severance Jan 24 '13 at 0:51
  • @ScottSeverance It's just what I think of naturally as a native speaker. Sorry I don't have a specific source. – Squazic Jan 24 '13 at 16:21
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    I would agree, and have been known to demonstrate a distinction between Your homework was all right (completely correct) and Your homework was alright (of a satisfactory standard). – TRiG Feb 2 '13 at 6:05
1

Alright is technically incorrect, but common, and therefore, proper grammar. It is used informally, as well as in situations where space isn't abundant, for instance, on signs and Twitter tweets. It is also used in quotes within many stories due to its commonness of use.

  • @ScottSeverance Is this better? I put this in "Alright is technically incorrect, but common and therefore proper, grammar" – Mark Robinson Jan 24 '13 at 4:37
  • I'm satisfied and have removed my downvote. – Scott Severance Jan 24 '13 at 5:54
  • @ScottSeverance Thank you, I am glad to be able to resolve this as gentlemen. – Mark Robinson Jan 24 '13 at 6:01
0

On top of answers of others — there are contexts where only "all right" is accepted, and I don't mean formal/informal.

— Are there any left-threaded bolts in the bin?
— No, they are all right.

  • 1
    Of course, this is a completely different meaning, and I would argue that right in this sense is a completely different word. – Scott Severance Jan 24 '13 at 23:53

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