in total and altogether


Senior Member

I came across a sentence in an English test. I was required to revise the sentence if there is error.

"Statistics show that the average Thanksgiving dinner today boasts twenty-three guests total--no tiny gathering."

I changed the underlined part into "guests in total," yet the answer is "guests altogether."
I can accept "guests altogether" as a correct choice. But I think my change is also true, because
I see the example in the Collins dictionary which goes, "the company employs over 700 people in total."

What is wrong about me?

  • gil12345

    Senior Member
    Nothing. Your answer is as good as several other possibilities (in all... when added together...). Was the test marked by a robot?
    It is the practice test made by Thomson Peterson (pretty high profile). Four choices are given, with "guests in total" as B and "guests altogether" as D. They say D is correct.


    Senior Member
    Without "in" I would regard it as correct enough for conversation but not particularly good style. I might have marked it as wrong on that basis.
    It is wrong. Did you look my thread through? I just don't get it why "guests in total" is wrong.


    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex) Practice Test 1.pdf
    Page 12 of this PDF document shows us the sentence and the choices:

    Nowadays, in many households, the whole family comes for Thanksgiving. Statistics show that the average Thanksgiving dinner today boasts twenty-three guests total — no tiny gathering. Both family and friends are included in this number.

    The underlined phrase is "guests total". The choices are:
    57. A. NO CHANGE B. guests in total C. guests D. guests altogether

    (on page 63): 57. D Adding a word such as total helps underscore the point that the guest list includes not just immediate family but extended family as well. However, the underlined portion is awkward and should be replaced with either total guests or guests altogether, as choice D provides.



    Senior Member
    English - US
    Personally, I find "guests altogether" quite awkward (particularly if you consider the spoken sentence sounds like "guests all together".) I find the whole thing a bit odd. How can there be guests if there are no hosts. It makes no sense to count everyone a guest. ;)
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