I don't get it; the two seem the same to me. They have the same range of meanings, and the optional of is a general property of all. (“All the Single Ladies” might not scan so well if it were “All of the Single Ladies”, but its grammar would remain intact.) How can you tell that all the time is abbreviated from all of the time, and why does that make it idiomatic? —RuakhTALK 17:17, 12 July 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps I should have taken this to the Tea Room. Four OneLook lemmings (AHD Idiom, McGraw-Hill American Idioms, Cambridge American Idioms, and Wordnet) have all the time; none have all of the time. I could see a reason not to include a NISoP noun phrase that functions as a time adverbial. But why one form and not the other? Is it just that "all the time" is nearly 40 times more common than "all of the time" (COCA, a little more so at BNC)?
I think we should look at only uses of "all the" and "all of the" with uncountable nouns ("all the meat"/"all of the meat"), with countable temporal nouns ("all the months"/"all of the months"), and uncountable temporal nouns ("all [possessive noun] life"/"all [possessive noun] life"). But, even in these cases (all of them), there seems to be a relative clause required or some kind of anaphora or deixis. It is only in the case of "time" that whatever implicit anaphora we might imagine has receded into the background. Perhaps that is what makes this idiomatic for our purposes. Is it possibly a not-fully-grammatical form because no explicit reference is required?
The purportedly non-literal senses of "all the time" are "continuously" ("He knew all the time.") and "habitually" (They shop there all the time."). "All of the time" seems to have these meanings as well. One source gives the "literal" sense for "all the time" of "all of the amount of time specified", where the specification is often by a "that"-clause (often omitting "that") or a prepositional phrase. IOW, I am having trouble seeing the difference myself. DCDuringTALK 19:29, 12 July 2010 (UTC)
Delete both (not that both have been nominated).—msh210℠ (talk) 20:33, 1 December 2010 (UTC)