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The sentence: "It took me all of ten minutes to find out"

What does "all of" mean here exactly?

Is it mainly used in a sarcastic context?

2 Answers 2

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Here, "all of" means "as few as", "merely" or "just". It doesn't have to be used sarcastically in general, and more context is needed to be able to say whether it's being used sarcastically in this particular case.

Here are a few examples of the idiom being used in non-sarcastic context, found by quick googling:

  • What's incredibly sad is how quickly I was able to concoct that message — it took me all of two or three minutes.
  • Except for steaming the green beans, it took me all of about 2 minutes to put together.
  • It took me all of two seconds after I first arrived at the [product name] website to say, “I've gotta have it”.
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  • Context: first comment of this question: meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/q/1185 - so do you think it's sarcasm, or simply the direct meaning? Oct 7, 2010 at 14:23
  • @Stefan: personally, I don't think badp's intention was to sound sarcastic. I take that comment to be pretty neutral-sounding, as in "Give the design a chance, it's been there for only 10 minutes."
    – RegDwigнt
    Oct 7, 2010 at 14:30
  • It is "sarcastic" (not really) in the sense that in all the contexts quoted above, it means "as little as" (or, as you said, "merely"/"just") — thus it means a small quantity and not a large one as the words suggest. (Contrast with: "He had five months to do the job. It took him all of five months".) Oct 7, 2010 at 17:57
  • @ShreevatsaR: absolutely, I'm just saying that that connotation is not enough to automatically inject sarcasm into any phrase "all of" is used in. (I think "sarcasm" is too strong a word for that connotation anyway; I'd rather go with "irony" or even compare it with "quite a few", which, as I explained here is a trap for foreign learners for much the same reasons.) I think if badp were aiming at sarcasm, he would have probably used stronger wording: "a whopping", "the inconceivable amount of" or something like that.
    – RegDwigнt
    Oct 8, 2010 at 8:52
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"All of" had me confused for a year, mostly because some people use it when it needn't be used: "It took me all of five minutes to walk up the stairs." If five minutes is about average for that flight of stairs, the sentence would have conveyed the same thing without the "all of," which just means "exactly" or "as stated."

If you're to use it correctly, there has to be some kind of intent -- perhaps sarcastic, or perhaps to express surprise, or delight, or denigration.

"It took me all of two seconds to figure out he was dumb" -- Emphasis on the negativity

"On the new rail system the journey takes all of 40 minutes" -- Praise or ridicule depending on whether the time is very short or too long

"I took me all of 20 years to realise I'm not the centre of the universe" -- Self-deprecation / regret

...and so on.

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