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a. Life has no meaning alright.

What does "alright" mean in the sentence above? I can't find it in the dictionary!

3 Answers 3

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Well it is listed in several dictionaries here, but in fairness not all of them list the sense it is used in in this case, so I could see how you might have missed it.

Its a colloquial use (and so not found everywhere, not considered correct by everyone, and not appropriate for formal use) that serves to emphasise a previous assertion.

You can consider it equivalent to "without doubt", indubitably, surely, etc. Many people whose dialect is such that they don't use it have another expression they do use, like "for sure".

As William points out in a comment, it would be common to set off the interjection with a comma:

Life has no meaning, alright.

Which in itself helps show that "life has no meaning" stands as a clause of its own.

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  • And Jon, shouldn't Vitor's sentence have a comma before the "alright"? Jan 10, 2015 at 2:08
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    @WilliamBloom: It can, but it’s not required. People don’t typically offset interjections with commas anymore except in formal writing.
    – Jon Purdy
    Jan 10, 2015 at 2:13
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    @WilliamBloom usually, because both attempts to formalise comma placement (which have never been 100% successful, but they have their uses) and the fact that people tend to pause before them would lead us to put one there. On the other hand, people will not always pause there so leaving out the comma could be reasonable stylistically as a faithful representation of speech.
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 10, 2015 at 2:21
  • Surely the most common alternative must be okay, okay? Funny we invariably put a question mark after that one in the written form, even though the intonation (and no expectation of a reply) are the same. Jan 10, 2015 at 2:42
  • @FumbleFingers there could no doubt be an interesting map made out of them if somebody had the necessary data. The one I first thought of, as being common during my childhood was you know? which likewise was always a rhetorical question, you know?
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 10, 2015 at 3:04
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It's not clear to me if the sentence refers to written or oral expression. If oral, an alternate possibility, at least in the US, (if it were written) would employ the comma and a question mark, after "alright."

Life has no meaning, alright? Because ... blah blah blah, alright?

Here, "alright?" is used as a rhetorical device meant to compel continued attention, alright? In the US there are numerous substitutions for the word "alright", ya feel me? You know what I mean? etc.

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In the context you present, the 'alright' could connote two somewhat different perspectives, depending on how the sentence is spoken:

  • When the utterance is emphatic, it is an expression of irritability — the equivalent of something like "Life has no meaning, as any fool can see!".

  • Spoken in more measured tones, it sounds like an acknowledgement of the correctness of an assertion made by the speaker's interlocutor: "Indeed, life has no meaning!".

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