Still, already and yet: Which do I use where?

by Liz Walter

yetThis post looks at the words still, already and yet – three common words that often cause problems for students.

We use still to talk about situations that continue to exist at the present time or at the time you are talking about:

He still hasn’t said sorry.

Note that (like words such as often and sometimes) still comes before the verb (unless it is be, when it comes after) or between the auxiliary and the main verb:

She still lives with her mother.

She lives still with her mother.

They were still living in London.

They were living still in London.

It is possible, but much less common, to put still at the end of the sentence:

She lives with her mother still.

We use yet in negative sentences to talk about things that have not happened up to the present time or the time you are talking about. With yet, Brits are most likely to use the present perfect, while Americans often use the past simple:

I haven’t read the document yet. (UK)

I didn’t read the document yet. (US)

We also use yet in simple, present tense questions, but not in positive statements:

Are you hungry yet?

Is the doctor here yet?

I am hungry yet.

We often use yet to ask whether something has been done. Again, Brits are most likely to use the present perfect, where Americans usually use the past simple:

Have you done your homework yet? (UK)

Did you do your homework yet? (US)

Note that we almost always put yet at the end of the sentence. It is possible to put it before the verb in negative sentences, but this is rather formal:

He hasn’t yet received the document.

Make sure you don’t use yet when you should use already. We use already to talk about things that have happened or been done before, or that have happened or been done before the expected time. Again, Brits often use the present perfect where Americans use the past simple:

I’ve already seen that movie. (UK)

I already saw that movie. (US)

Have you finished your work already?  (UK)

Did you finish your work already? (US)

Be careful with the spelling of already too – remember that it only has one ‘l’!

So, did you know all this information already? Perhaps you haven’t learned it in your English lessons yet? Or maybe you learned it in class but you still didn’t understand it completely? Anyway, I hope it is clearer now!

If you’d like some more information on still, already and yet, you can find it here.

16 thoughts on “Still, already and yet: Which do I use where?

    1. There is a fine distinction here. “He still hasn’t said sorry” implies that he has no idea he has caused an offense, or assumed his words or deeds do not require an apology, regardless of the reaction of the offended party.. “He hasn’t said sorry yet” implies that he knows he has caused an offense, but has not YET found a way to make amends.

      That said, context is everything. The two sentences could have equal meaning in, say, an argument between quarreling spouses or siblings or business partners.For better or worse, English is especially rich in ambiguous terms.

  1. Luc007

    Dear Liz,
    For once, I beg to differ with one of your statements : “We also use yet in simple, present tense questions, but not in positive statements”.
    Well, “yet “can actually be used in positive statements, as correctly illustrated by the article “Yet from English Grammar Today” (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/yet) : “there is plenty of time yet” or “his film is his best yet”.
    So, I guess my comment has yet to be proven wrong 😉

    1. Liz Walter

      You are quite right! I was thinking of the most common meaning of ‘yet’. We don’t say, for instance: ‘He’s done his homework yet.’

    1. Haruna Daura

      It is still too early to judge you!
      It was still a mistake not to acknowledge my help
      They are still in denial of its authenticity

    1. Liz Walter

      That’s an interesting one. Your sentence is definitely correct. If you put ‘already’ at the end, it has a bit more emphasis – implying that you may be a little bit surprised.

  2. Bob Richter

    How about beginning a sentence with “Still,” particularly in following a comment. For example, “A loves B. Still, they are breaking up.”

      1. Liz Walter

        Yes, that’s right – it’s a different use of ‘still’ from the one I was referring to in the post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s