phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Whole vs. entire?

Posted by R. Berg on October 16, 2003

In Reply to: Whole vs. entire? posted by Bob on October 16, 2003

: : : : : : He was so hungry that he ate up the whole cake.

: : : : : : Why should we use whole here?

: : : : : Greetings, friend Sphinx.

: : : : The reason you should use "whole" here is to indicate that he was so hungry he ate the entire cake, not simply a slice or two. You could use "entire" here as well. "Total" is used when referring to a number of items considered together.

: : : : Here are a few examples:
: : : : "The total number of cupcakes is ten. He ate ten cup cakes in total. He ate the entire box of ten cup cakes. He ate the entire cake. He the whole box of cupcakes."

: : : : I'm sure there is a more formal way to explain this difference. So I'll leave that to people who are better at expressing these things than I am. In the meantime, I hope though this helps to illustrate the difference in the way these words are used.

: : : : Camel

: : : Isn't "whole" for emphasis? Not just: He ate the cake. He ate the WHOLE cake. (Remember the old Alka-Seltzer commercial: "I can't believe I ate the whole thing.")

: : This is true. You are wise ESC.

: I'm struggling to find any shade of difference between whole and entire, and I haven't found one yet. It's so rare to find perfect synonyms, though, that there probably is one; I just can't put my finger on it. My whole finger. My entire finger. (There are of course, other meanings to whole: whole milk, etc. But ignore that and think of whole and entire. Is there a shade of difference?) One syllable vs. two might make one preferable to fit a rhythm.

I can't find a difference that's consistent across all uses. In an old cookbook of mine (1920s), some recipes call for "entire-wheat flour."