I've heard this phrase in speeches or articles many times, but I couldn't quite grasp the meaning of it. I'll list some examples here:

You rarely get to sit down with someone like Andy and talk about the reality of it all.

Perhaps a hidden psychological mechanism is at play, protecting me from the profound tragedy of it all.

What's the meaning of it all for us humans in your view?

It seems to me that these sentences will still retain the same meaning even if "of it all" is omitted. What purpose does this phrase serve in these examples?

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    OK. Let's remove 'of it all' - if you say to me 'Let's talk about the reality', I'm going to ask 'The reality of what?' Commented Mar 17 at 11:41
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    In some contexts, it all is equivalent to everything, but usually there's some context-specific limit as to exactly what falls within the scope of "it". In general, though, I'd say of it all usually serves more as an "intensifier" than an actual "referent". Commented Mar 17 at 12:00
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    of it all can express the idea that the speaker feels overwhelmed or bewildered in face of myriad things to consider or ponder. "She has suffered so much misfortune lately and is questioning the meaning of it all." Or it can be used to lump multiple ostensibly different things together as a unity. "By the end of chapter seven, you should begin to get a sense of it all". or "Why so many traffic signs at the roundabout? I don't see the purpose of it all. No one has the time to take them in."
    – TimR
    Commented Mar 17 at 12:16
  • @TimR - in UK conversation, to 'end it all' can be a gentle way of saying 'commit suicide'. Commented Mar 17 at 12:34
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    Of it all often means of life. Commented Mar 17 at 12:57

1 Answer 1


"it all" in these examples is used when referring to a large and nebulous thing, hard to define and place boundaries on.

In your third example,

What's the meaning of it all for us humans in your view?

the lack of other context would suggest "it all" is referring broadly to life, the universe, and everything, our purpose in general. That's the sort of wide expanse of concept we're talking about.

With more context it might be slightly more constrained, for example,

George watched the thousands of commuters and wondered what was the point of it all.

would be referring to an existential questioning of why we engage in the rat race. So, smaller than "literally everything" or "all of life itself", but still a grand and expansive concept.

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