Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question about the differences between “yet” and “already.”
Dear Learning English,
I can learn a lot from you. I have a question about the difference between “already” and “yet.”
Have you already finished your homework?
Have you finished your homework yet?
Which sentence is natural?
Is there any difference in meaning between these two sentences?
Hiroyuki from Japan
This is a great question, Hiroyuki! We answered a question a few weeks back about the differences between “yet” and “still.” Thank you for bringing “already” into the discussion.
Your example sentences are in question form, which highlights some slight differences between the two words.
Both questions are “natural,” as in native English speakers would use both these questions. The difference between them comes from how and why we use them.
Let’s look and “yet” and “already” by themselves, then we will look at the differences in your questions.
“Yet” is an adverb and is often used at the end of a statement or question. We use “yet” in connection with expected actions. We often use “yet” in questions and negative statements.
Here’s an example:
Class starts in five minutes and I haven’t gotten out of bed yet.
The use of “yet” expresses the idea that the student might be late for class. It connects the class time to their current state.
When we use “yet” in questions, we are unsure if the action has been completed or not and we are checking either way by asking a yes or no question. Here is an example:
Question: You are moving next month! Have you found an apartment yet?
Answer: Not yet. I am still looking at places.
By using “yet” in the question, we guess that the person answering the question has not completed the action up to this point in time.
“Already” is an adverb and we use it before the verb in a sentence.
We use “already” for actions that we expect to occur or have occurred depending on if we use “already” in a statement or question.
When we use “already” in statements the action has occurred.
The paper is due tomorrow and I’ve already written it.
When we use “already” in a question, we are suggesting that the action may be complete. We want confirmation or denial in an answer.
Question: You are moving next month! Did you already find an apartment?
Answer: Yep, we found a place last week!
Your two questions
Now let’s look at your two questions.
- Have you already finished your homework?
- Have you finished your homework yet?
In the first question, the questioner may believe that the listener has finished thew homework by using already. Once again, it is just a guess.
In the second question, by using “yet,” the questioner is not sure if the homework has been completed or not.
Please let us know if these explanations and examples have helped you, Hiroyuki!
What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at email@example.com
And that’s Ask a Teacher.
I’m Faith Pirlo.
Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
occur – v. to happen
apartment – n. a room or set of rooms rented as a home
essay – n. a piece of writing that tells a person's thoughts or opinions about a subject
guess – v. to form an opinion or give an answer about something when you do not know much or anything about it
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