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These examples are taken from the MacMillan Dictionary:

1. For all his complaining, I think he actually enjoyed the day.

2. For all the trouble he's caused her, you'd think she'd be happy to see him go.

3. With all this uncertainty about jobs, it's difficult to make plans.

4. With all its faults, democracy is still the best system we have.

Are these "with all" fixed collocations?

And I'm wondering whether "with all" has a broader scope of meaning than "for all" does as I think "for all" in the first two examples could be easily substituted with "with all".

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Consider "for all + noun/noun group" at the beginning of a sentence as an idiom and a colloquial variant for the preposition "despite".

In "with all + noun/noun group" "with" has its basic meaning.

Sometimes there is not much difference between the two, but sometimes they are of opposite meaning as in

1 - Mother about her son's room: with all his books in his room it's difficult for me to clean up.

2 - Welcome back. With all your absence it was a loss on this site.

If you put in "For all" 1 and 2 make no sense.

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Actually they don't mean quite the same thing, even the ones that use the same phrase, though I can understand the confusion.

For all his complaining, I think he actually enjoyed the day.

Here for all means despite or regardless of. Even though he complained (which would imply he didn't enjoy the day), I still think he did enjoy it.

For all the trouble he's caused her, you'd think she'd be happy to see him go.

Here for all means considering, or taking into account. Given the fact that he's caused her so much trouble, it would be logical she'd be happy to see him go; but in fact she is not happy to see him go.

With all this uncertainty about jobs, it's difficult to make plans.

This with all is similar to the previous for all, and actually I think I'd prefer to use with all in both cases. With all here means considering or taking into account, just like before. You could also say it means since it's the case that.... Given the fact that there's so much uncertainty about jobs, making plans is difficult.

With all its faults, democracy is still the best system we have.

This one is similar to your first for all example. It means despite or regardless of. Even though democracy has many faults, it's still the best system we have.

So 1 and 4 are similar, and 2 and 3 are similar, even though they use different phrasing.

  • I have no idea what the role of "all" here is. Without it, would this bring any difference in the "with all" examples? – Kinzle B Apr 19 '14 at 16:38
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    "With" has no special meaning, it takes the meaning "while a particular situation exists". And the "all" after "with" is a determiner, that is qualifying the following noun. – Man_From_India Apr 19 '14 at 16:40
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    @ZhanlongZheng The all is a quantifier, I guess. It does make a difference having it there; it's basically saying "considering there are so many faults, still..." or "considering that he complained so much...". You can't just remove the all and have the same meaning. You aren't just considering faults or complaining. You're considering the fact that those things were in such great magnitude ("all"), X is the result. Not sure if that makes any sense? – WendiKidd Apr 19 '14 at 16:43
  • Well understood! I thought of sth similar. Now I'm sure about it. – Kinzle B Apr 19 '14 at 16:49
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You are right about the meaning of "for all". They do mean "in spite of..."

But "with all" doesn't mean "in spite of...", or "for all" for that matter. There is no meaning of "with all" other than literal meaning of "with all".

As a matter of fact, all your example sentences are correct.

  • I couldn't find any entry for "with all" there. Do you have a link? – Man_From_India Apr 19 '14 at 16:29
  • macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/with the 9th one. – Kinzle B Apr 19 '14 at 16:31
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    There is no special meaning of "with all" there. In there the meaning of "with" is "while a particular situation exists". That is what I got from the link you provided. – Man_From_India Apr 19 '14 at 16:38
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considering the KJV Bible for the Scriptures dealing with the teaching,: 'with all' thy heart, 'with all' thou soul, ... 'For all' could never work here. 'With' can work alone as a sentence but the 'all' gives the sentence is true intensity, its completeness. The defining makeup to its purpose forming the mindset of the speaker.

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