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Please consider these terms:

a. By and large
b. all in all
c. altogether

I am not quite sure which one of the can be used for which sense below:

  1. A total number / amount
  2. A summary of what you have just said

I have made some examples; I was wondering which option(s) sound(s) correct in the following examples?

Scenario 1)

  • A) How did your interview go?
    B) At first, the interviewer asked me some professional questions that I didn't know, but later I made it up when I spoke about my resume. _____________, it went well.

a. By and large
b. All in all
c. Altogether

I think, all the three options work here with more or less the same meaning.

Scenario 2)

  • A) How much shall I pay?
    B) That'll be $52.50 _________, please.

a. by and large
b. all in all
c. altogether

Based on dictionaries, I think the only possible choice in this case would be "a"; the options "b" and "c" don't work here in my view.

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    Based on what definition exactly do you consider a. appropriate in the second example? – userr2684291 Sep 6 at 12:39
  • Definition 2 in your dictionary link for altogether shows it works in the second scenario . Used for showing that a total number or amount includes everyone or everything. – Weather Vane Sep 6 at 13:35
  • Based on your statements @Weather Vane and the other poster's comment, I think "All in all" can be used only in example #1, but "altogether" and "by and large" can be used in both of my sentences. Do you confirm? – A-friend Sep 6 at 14:50
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    No, "by and large" does not work in #2, it would usually be "altogether". The amount of a bill is exact, not an approximate summary. – Weather Vane Sep 6 at 14:57
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    "By and large" is not applied to money, but to, say, an opinion. So it means "mostly" or "on the whole". Suppose I am asked "Did you enjoy your holiday?" I might reply "There were a few problems, but by and large, yes." – Weather Vane Sep 6 at 17:02
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By and large is not really a synonym for the other two. It means "generally speaking" or "for the most part." It implies that whatever is about to be said is mostly true over a large number of cases, but there are probably unimportant exceptions.

By and large, kids don't like pink lemonade.

There are lots and lots of kids out there, and the ones that like pink lemonade are rare enough that we can ignore them.

All in all and altogether can by synonyms that mean you are taking into account a several aspects or points of data to come to a conclusion. It's something like "All things considered."

We got some work done and had some fun. All in all, it was a good trip.

We got some work done and had some fun. Altogether, it was a good trip.

However, altogether is a common word and can also be used in other contexts, such as requesting that something be lumped together. It could also mean "completely" and several other things.


Any of the three could be used in the first scenario without raising an eyebrow, I suppose, but the latter two make more sense. "By and large" would be if you were speaking of some general case or about a large number of interviews, not just one. People would understand it just fine but I don't think it's technically correct.

Scenario 2 is very different. The speaker is requesting that everything get paid all at once. It's not closely related to the other usage and doesn't work with the first two options.

  • Thank you, but @farnsy I would like to attract your attention to some definitions! Macmillan says: "All in all --> (It is used for showing that you are considering every aspect of something.) Also, Cambridge says: "By and large" --> (It is used when everything about a situation is considered together.) As you see, they mean the same thing! Hence, I wonder whether what you mentioned is a personal style or the way other native speakers would think that way too. – A-friend Sep 7 at 6:33
  • I can't speak for the folks at Cambridge. The definitions I mentioned in my post are the way I have encountered them over the course of my life. If you prefer to rely on those definitions, you are free to do so. I don't think confusion about these three phrases is going to hamper you much in your life. – farnsy Sep 7 at 17:52
  • I wonder @fransy for which dialect are you talking? – A-friend Sep 7 at 18:53
  • American English. – farnsy Sep 8 at 18:36
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    Yes, that's my experience. All of these are close enough that people would not bat an eye if you interchanged them, but "by and large" does have a slightly different meaning in popular usage. – farnsy Sep 11 at 14:54

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