Expression: Not altogether a...


He had <some description of features of a particular face. Lips, eyes,…>. Not altogether a pleasant face.

It sounds a bit unnatural to me.
More natural would be to say something like Altogether not a pleasant face or Not a pleasant face, altogether.
(i.e. to relate not directly to the ‘result’ (not a pleasant) of the 'union action’ expressed by the word ‘altogether’)

Or is ‘not altogether a…’ a fixed expression?

I’d say it is, Tamara, and it also sounds quite natural to me.

Can we safely assume you’ve already valiantly googled and BNC-ed the expression? :smiley:


Hi Tamara,

Not altogether is often used in so called understatements. It often betokens a ‘stifupperlippish’ attitude.

Interviewer: So I suppose you were horrified when you saw your car blow up, your house burn to the ground and you realised you weren’t insured?

Siffupperlipperish chappie:Well, yes it wasn’t altogether a pleasant experience, you know.


Now, if that isn’t a perfect example of British phlegm, I don’t know what is!


Hi Conchita!

As interested as I am to see Alan?s answer, I wonder whether your "… If that isn?t…! is an English term in fact, or if that is something Spainglish or Denglish or Germlish or what. :? :lol:


Hi :slight_smile:


Yes, Amy :slight_smile: ([size=92]Or are you starting to have you doubts about my diligence? :roll: [/size]

I just sought for (some kind of) validation, whether native speakers would prefer to use the expression in the situation like the Alan gave. :slight_smile:

Hi Michael

Would you like to explain your suspicions about “if that isn’t” in a bit more detail? :lol:

Does “if that isn’t” sound unnatural to you? :?


No, Michael, that expression of surprise is definitely (quite positively) not Spanglish or Denglish (though there is a similar German expression, which isn’t quite used as in English, though): ‘Na ob das nicht…!’. :slight_smile:

Hi Amy!

I eat my shorts if that isn?t easy to explain for you! :wink:

Well, this term (if that isn?t…) sounds absolutely fine for me, seriously, I lke it. Only, I was surprised to read it since you may translate it into German straightly and you?ll get exactly the same sense, don?t you? :roll:


Hi Michael, could you please check the difference between term and expression? Also, please google the phrases “sounds fine to me” and then “sounds fine for me”. Which of both do you think sounds more natural?
You might want to do the Google check with “translate straightly” vs. “translate directly”.
Let me know what you think,

TOEIC listening, photographs: A family picture[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Torsten!

Thanks for your advice! Okay, I checked my mistakes.

Expression definitely must be correct for …if that isn?t…!

“… sounds fine to me” is the correct expression. Googling “sounds fine for me” I couldn?t find any result.

Well, just with translate straightly/directly I have some problems. Googling translate straightly I found, beside of some other results, the site what offered for both: “straightly and directly” the translation in German “direkt/gerade” while googling “translate directly” just reffered to some sites which made offerings for some translation-tools (at least, as much as I understood there). Hm…, now I wonder whether straightly could more refer to a spacial distance in opposite of directly what possibly could more refer to a mental distance or something like that. Would you please explain that to me?


Hi Michael, try to steer clear of German/English translation websites. Instead, use to find out how often a certain expression is used by native speakers. For example, the combination “translate straightly” produces 39 results most of which are Asian websites.

Now, “translate directly” produces 292.000 results and browse through the top sites you will see that all of them are US based.

Bottom line: Always try to make sure you use phrases you know exist. Avoid creating your own phrases and expressions. Use the Google Toolbar to google phrases, expressions, word combinations and collocations. Do this on a regular basis and try not to translate from German into English.


TOEIC listening, photographs: Kids at the playground[YSaerTTEW443543]

Thanks Torsten, I think I?ve got your point.