As a rule/On the whole/As a whole/altogether


Senior Member
Brazilian Portuguese
Hello amigos!:)

I´ve looked it up already in the dictionary but I haven´t been able to distiguish the difference among them:(, They seem so alike to me: ( As rule= On the whole) and (As a whole=altogether) I´d be thankful to those who could clarify me on this issue by providing examples.


  • JamesM

    Senior Member
    I would say that "as a rule" talks about a procedure or default condition. "As a rule, cameras are not allowed in the Tate Museum, but cameras were snapping shots of everything last night at the Kodak Gala." It is either an intentional thing or a predictable condition.

    "On the whole" doesn't work in the context above. "On the whole, cameras are not allowed in the Tate Museum." This would mean that sometimes cameras are allowed and sometimes they aren't but the majority of the time they are not. It also just doesn't "fit" in the context. The sense of "on the whole" is that you are evaluating a group of things, events, or people, not talking about a standard procedure.

    To me, "on the whole" means "taken as a whole", "looking at the majority of the experience/collection/relationship/group". "On the whole, they were a motley crew." Some of them were not motley, but taken as a group they behaved and appeared to be a motley crew. They were not, "as a rule", a motley crew. In other words, there was no charter requiring a prospective member of the group to be motley, but it was a fair assessment overall of the group.

    "Altogether" is a different word to me. My first impression is of "completely". "That's a different matter altogether." I can't think of a context off the top of my head where altogether would be used in a way that allowed "as a rule" or "on the whole" to substitute for it. Can you give us some examples, please?
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