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How to Use the Words “Already”, “Yet” and “Still”

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Three words that can be very confusing to English learners are already, yet and still. All three of these are used to describe whether an action has been completed or not, which is why lots of people mix them up. However, they each mean different things.

Let’s start by explaining what each word means, and then we’ll look at how they can be used together in a conversation.

Already

If something has already happened, it means that it is now in the past.

Note that you can put the word already at the end of the sentence, or before the verb. For example:

“Has Mary already gone home?”

“She’s finished her homework already

“I already phoned Mum”

Just to make things super confusing, in US slang, people sometimes use “already” to mean “hurry up and do something”. For example, “Just dump your boyfriend already!”. This doesn’t make grammatical sense, but the idea is to show that you’re frustrated and want the other person to act as quickly as possible.

Yet

If something hasn’t happened yet, it means you expect it to happen at some time in the future.

The word yet almost always comes at the end of the sentence, but occasionally you might see or hear it before the verb. This sounds very formal and awkward in everyday speech, but is a more common in written English.

For example:

“I haven’t been to the doctor yet

“Have you read the book I lent you yet?”

“When I knew him, he hadn’t yet become famous.”

Still

You used the word still to show that a situation hasn’t changed. Usually, this is placed before the verb in a sentence, but sometimes you will hear it used at the end of sentence for emphasis, especially in casual conversation.

For example:

“I’m still waiting in the queue.”

“Are you still at the office?”

“I don’t care what you say, I still think Taylor Swift is awesome.”

“Is he living in London, still?”

Using Yet, Still and Already Together

Often, you will hear these three phrases used a lot in a single conversations. That’s because, as I said above, people tend to use them to clarify whether something has happened, is still happening, or hasn’t happened but will soon.

Take this phone conversation, for example.

“Hey! Are you still at the office?”

“Yeah, I haven’t finished this report yet. Where are you?”

“I’m already at the pub.”

“I’m sorry! Will you still be there in an hour?”

“I don’t know yet. I’ve already bought a beer so I’ll wait for you until I finish it.”

“In that case you’ll definitely be there in an hour, still. You drink so slowly!”

As you can see here, already, yet and still are all used for situations where you’re trying to work out whether a situation has recently changed, or is about to change. It’s really important to get used to using them correctly.

After all, you don’t want to be the only person stuck behind at the pub because you confused these words and turned up after everyone else left!

 

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