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Is there any difference in nuance between these two expressions, any examples of where one would be more appropriate (or even just sound better?)

(On reflection, I'm not sure I'd ever say All the night, but someone just asked me the question)

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Those are mainly two different ways of saying the same thing.

The "the" in the first phrase can be dropped because it is meaningless since "night" is understood as being singular. Thus, the only real difference in the two phrases is the addition of the word "long" in the second.

The "long" in the second phrase might carry a negative connotation. Someone who had to take care of a fussy baby all night might use the 2nd phrase, while someone woke up well rested might simply use the first phrase like this: "I slept all the night."

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I think long provides emphasis in this construction, so it makes negative things more negative and positive things more positive; e.g., "We partied all night long!" – Kosmonaut Sep 30 '10 at 13:55
I agree with Kosmonaut. – kchau Sep 30 '10 at 15:19
Yes. You're right about that Kosmo. – Captain Claptrap Sep 30 '10 at 17:21

"All the night" sounds like a construction designed to fit a poetic meter rather than a common phrasing.

My boy is so much like the sun, so full of energy, so bright; and also like the sun, he is unconscious throughout all the night.

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Strictly speaking, the difference is that "all night long" is a fairly common phrase, while "all the night" sounds awkward at best. Now, if you were wondering about the difference between "all night long" and "all night", that would be a different matter. (As Flotsam N. Jetsam hinted, the "long" adds emphasis, but the phrases are grammatically interchangeable.)

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