All the While: Definition & Usage

Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
'All the while' is becoming a more popular phrase that can be used to show different actions. Yet how is it exactly used, and what does it mean? In this lesson, you will learn what 'all the while' is and how to correctly use it.

A Massive Trick

Operation Fortitude, a massive military operation during World War II, might be one of the greatest tricks in history. The Allies used thousands of fake ships, tanks and planes which looked like a real force from the air, yet all the while they hid the real army and weaponry in relative safety until June 6.

Decoy ships used all the while real ships were hidden in 1944.
decoy

See that phrase 'all the while'? That's an important part of that operation! 'All the while' means 'during', 'when', or 'at the same time as'. 'All the while' is used to show an action that is happening at the same time that another action is happening. Let's look at this in detail.

Definition of 'All the While'

You could also work 'the whole time' in instead. 'All the while' is a conjunction, which is a word or a phrase that connects two independent clauses:

Two independent ideas:

  • I had looked forward to being in England.
  • I was missing the United States.

Those phrases connected by 'all the while':

  • I had looked forward to being in England, but all the while I was missing the United States.

Using 'All the While'

The phrase 'all the while' reached its peak of usage around 1880-1900, but then fell into decline. By 1980, the phrase had fallen out of fashion. However, by the 2000s, the phrase has made a comeback.

Some might use 'all the while' because it sounds more formal and educated than saying 'the whole time.' Let's compare:

  • The whole time I was young, I never learned how to ride a bicycle.
  • All the while I was young, I never learned how to ride a bicycle.

The second sentence sounds more dramatic and stylistically better, especially in writing, to most native English speakers.

Usually, 'all the while' has a negative meaning. This means that it is used to show that something bad was happening or happened.

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