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Is there any difference between both expressions? I'd say that my whole life is better suited for use it in the middle or at the end of a sentence, whilst all my life is better for start a sentence.

Is that correct? Or are there any other differences?

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, choster, p.s.w.g, MetaEd, tchrist Aug 2 '13 at 10:16

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  • "My whole life has been one mishap after another." – Amory Aug 1 '13 at 16:21

"My whole life" is used as a noun. Let's look at the example above. My whole life has been filled with disappointments. The subject of this sentence is the noun phrase "my whole life". "All my life" is an adverbial phrase and functions as an adverb in a sentence and answers the question how long: How long have you been disappointed? I have been disappointed all my life. But in spoken English, these rules are not fixed in stone and these expressions are sometimes used interchangeably.

  • I was about to post this same answer, except specifically saying that there is a tendency for ‘all my life’ to be used more often as an adverb, and ‘my whole life’ as a noun. ‘My whole life’ can also unproblematically be used as an adverb, but ‘all my life’ used as a noun is fairly rare. In other words, on the noun–adverbial spectrum, ‘my whole life’ is slightly to the left (noun) of the centre, while ‘all my life’ is quite close to the right (adverbial) end. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 1 '13 at 17:13
  • Good, clear and brief answer. – Mari-Lou A Aug 2 '13 at 5:02

I don't think there's any hard and fast rule governing where you place either of these expressions in a sentence.

"I've been doing this all my life."


"All my life I've been dogged by depression."


"I've been looking backwards all my life, as if I could change the past, which I cannot."


"My whole life has been filled with disappointments."


"As I look back over my whole life, I see certain patterns emerging."


"My whole life could be made into a compelling autobiography."

  • Is it fine to omit ‘for’, or is that informal? E.g. I’ve been doing this for all my life. – user203189 Nov 23 '16 at 22:49
  • @huheueuueueu: There is very little difference between "I've been doing this my whole life," and "I've been doing this for my whole life." The word "for" is not necessary, but including the word is neither formal nor informal. Don – rhetorician Nov 24 '16 at 0:47

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