"what it is all about"

Hello, Here I want to ask you this.

"What it is all about"

E.g. : Oxygen is what it is all about. We make energy from it.
Anyway I took the example from what I read before.
There is the phrase "something is what it is all about"
Some people say this means "something is like this" or "something is as follwing".
Others say this means "important".

To me it doesn't make any sense. I thought this as "something is like what it's related to". And this looks more confusing. Please help me you English native speakers. TT
  • Grady412

    Senior Member
    English - US
    You're on the right track, but rather than important, think more essence or "sum and substance."

    For instance, if you were to say, "Cellular respiration is a complicated process. Oxygen is what it's all about. We make energy from it," you would mean that oxygen is the essence of the cellular respiration process.

    In another example, you might say "Numerous criminal charges have been leveled on both sides, but politics is what it's all about," meaning that politics is the essence of the controversy.

    Does that make sense?
    Thank you for your good explanation. Then, I wonder what "it" means from that phrase. E.g. : I know the phrase "I got what it takes". Here, "it" means somewhat challenging task or my goal to accomplish. Thus I say I got what the goal needs from me.

    But what about "what it is all about"? I want to know the role of "it".


    Senior Member
    British English
    "It" is whatever you are discussing. Cellular respiration is all about oxygen.
    People say the secret of good beer is the malt, the hops, the yeast, or the water, but the head brewer's happiness at home is what it's all about. "It" is whatever makes up the secret of making good beer.
    Thank you so much..
    Then , I guess this would make sense:

    "Topic : children as our future generation of the Earth.

    Children are what it's all about. The future is all about children. Children will lead our society just in a few decades. We should leave good things for them, and remove bad things for them."

    1. No matter whether the topic word is plural or not, we use "what it's all about", not "what these are all about".

    E.g. : People are all about emotion.

    Emotion is what they/people are about. (Can be right too)
    Emotion is what it is all about.
    = (right, it indicates people, though)

    2. If I want to use this phrase right without "it", we can say like "The future is all about children. And in this case "A be all about B" means B is the sum and substance of A.

    Please check these two summaries I made. Did I get that right? Wa wa wow
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