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The words still yet and again in English

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Still, Yet, Again and Already


grammar trouble shooterThe tricky points of English 
Distinguishing between Still Yet and Again (and Already and Always)

Still and yet, again and already and even always, are words which often cause trouble for students of English. So let's try and distinguish clearly between them.

    The problem arises because other  languages do not have an equivalent choice of words, and one word may cover different meanings;  French encore, Spanish todavía and German noch, for example, can be either "still" or "yet", and  encore and noch can also mean "again", and sometimes even "always" or "already" in English.  Dictionaries don't always clearly distinguish between the different uses.

► 1.  STILL (no longer and always)

1a. Still 

Still implies a continuing action, and is generally used in affirmative sentences; for example:
A1    The computer is still analysing the data.
A2    They were still talking at midnight.
The action is continuous, and the verb tense with still in this sense is usually a progressive form, except with be, have and verbs of primary perception, as in
A3    I still have that picture you gave me.
A4    I can still see him.
or when referring to habitual action:
A5    She still shops at Sainsbury's.

1b. No longer:

No longer is the equivalent of still in negative contexts.  STILL is not often found in negative sentences, but is usually replaced by no longer (or not ... any more) . Note: "no more" should not be used.
The negative versions of examples A1 - A3 could be:
B1    The computer is not analysing the data any more
B2    They were no longer talking at midnight.
   B21:  but not:  They were no more talking at midnight.
B3    I no longer have that picture you gave me.
IMPORTANT: When still is used with not, the position of still before or after the "not" is vital for determining the meaning of the sentence!! If still comes before the verb, this does not mean that an action has stopped, but that it has not yet begun. For example:
B 31    I still do not have the picture means that
                     I am waiting to receive it, I have not yet received it.
However
B 32    I do not still have the picture means the same as
                 I no longer have the picture but I had it earlier.

TIP:  to avoid mistakes, do not use STILL in negative contexts! There are always alternative expressions !

1c. STILL and ALWAYS:

These words are NOT synonymous in English.
  • Still implies that an action is unfinished or not permanent, and will be terminated at some moment.
  • Always implies that an action is permanent and is not likely to be terminated or cease.
B 41   He's still waiting for the bus.
B 42   He always goes home by bus.

► 2. YET

Yet normally accompanied by NOT, implies non-commenced or non-terminated action. It is most commonly found in negative statements -  but it is not a simple negative equivalent of still.
YET does not imply discontinued action,  i.e. action that has finished.
For example:
C1.    The computer has not yet analysed the data.
C4.    I can't yet see him (he hasn't appeared).

YET is very rare in affirmative statements.  However it can be used in affirmative questions:
C5   Have you yet seen the new James Bond movie ?

When yet is used in affirmative statements, it actually implies a negative, as in:
C51   I've yet to see the new James Bond movie.   which means
              I have not yet seen the movie, but I will soon see it maybe.

TIP:  to avoid mistakes, do not use YET in affirmative statements.

► 2.1 CONFUSION between STILL and YET.

Confusion is easiest in QUESTIONS: the difference between continuing action (still) and incipient (beginning) action (yet) is fundamental. When a person asks a question, they may not know if an action is commenced, or terminated; the word "yet" leaves this option open, as in example D5. 
 Compare:
D1    He's used the new machine for a year now; can he still remember how to use the old one?
D2    He's only lived here for a week: has he yet found out where the best pizzeria is?
D3    Can you see anything yet ?  or Can you yet see anything ?
     (Question, meaning "Have you started to see something?")
D4    Can you still see anything?  
     (Question meaning: "It was visible; but is it visible now?")
D5     Have you yet had any rain ?
     
(Open question implying "Maybe you have, maybe you have not".)

 

► 3 ALREADY

Already implies terminated action (D1 or D2) or an acquired state (D3 or D4). In British English, already is normally used with a present perfect; American speakers often use it with a preterite.
Examples;
D1    I've already been to London three times.
D2    We already went to Chicago twice this year.
D3    She already has three children
D4    The box was already broken when I found it.

►4. AGAIN

Again always implies repeated action
E1     I went to Paris last week, and I went there again this week.
E2     You haven't broken your CD-player again, have you?

RECAPITULATION


Affirmative context negative context Interrogative context
(Non)-commenced action not yet yet
Continuing action still no longer, (not still) still
Terminated action already no longer yet / already
Repeated action again again again

► TEST YOURSELF - a short multiple choice test on still, yet, already.

OTHER TRICKY WORDS EXPLAINED: See Problem words in English

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