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what is the difference between "yet" and "still"?

When we can use "still"? and when we can use "yet"?

Are they synonyms or not

"The plan could yet succeed." Can I use "still" in that sentence instead of "yet"?

"I still don't understand." Can I use "yet" in that sentence too?

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Relevant –  Nico Jul 29 at 11:42

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In their closest meanings, "still" is used for a situation that is ongoing or unchanged at any point in time, or regardless of any factor, stated or otherwise:

She still loves you. If you lose all your money, she will still love you. Even when you were abusive, she still loved you.

"yet" has a similar interpretation, but describes the state of a something, within a process, at any given time within a progression, up to that point in a process:

He is yet a child. -or- He is a child yet.

He's still a child.

In another usage, it is closer to "already." In questions, it asks whether something has happened "already" or up to the time of questioning, and additionally implies that the addressee is expected or required to do it:

Have you called your mother yet?

Here the speaker possibly commanded or just expects the addressee call his mother, or was informed of the his intention to call his mother, and is questioning whether he has done it. "Already" doesn't have this force - it merely questions the completion of the action logistically:

Have you already called your mother? I wanted to say hello to her. (=Am I too late?)

Note that the idiom "have yet to" is used with the above meaning to express that something expected still hasn't been done:

He has yet to call his mother. (= He's supposed to do it, but hasn't done it.)

I have yet to see that movie. (= I've been meaning to see it, but haven't gotten around to it.)

"Not yet" - or "yet" in any negative context - is the opposite of "already:"

My father already sent me a birthday present.

My father hasn't sent me a birthday present yet.

Finally, "yet" can function as a conjunction like "but, however" that emphasizes a result obtained or a situation that arises despite certain factor(s):

He's only been speaking English for a year, yet he sounds just like an American.

I've asked you a million times not to lock the door, yet every time I come home, it's locked.

Note that "still" can replace "yet" here with the same meaning.

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Why we can't use still in the question sentences? –  Ice Girl Jul 28 at 8:25
    
You can use still in questions, but it has a different meaning - it ask whether a situation continues to be in force: Are you still living in New York? (=is this the case even now?) -versus- Are you living in New York yet? (=have you followed through with your plans to move there already) –  CocoPop Jul 28 at 13:17
    
OK. I got it. Thank you –  Ice Girl Jul 28 at 13:28

Offhand I can only think of one specific context where yet can't in principle be replaced by still...

1: "Do you love me still?"
2: "Do you love me yet?"

...where the natural implication of #1 is "You loved me before. Has the situation changed?", but for #2 it's "You did not love me. Has the situation changed?"*. Note that in practice most native speakers would put still before rather than after the verb, but grammatically both words can go in either position.

Apart from that, I think you can probably always use still instead of yet. So for simplicity I suggest you only use yet in contexts such as the above (where the focus is on a possible future having arrived, rather than an actual past condition which may no longer apply). That's to say - don't use yet in other contexts, even if theoretically it would be equivalent to still (in what's usually a formal/dated/literary register).

Closely related is the conjunction but, which can often be replaced by yet or still. My advice would be to use but whenever a "contrastive conjunction" is required (i.e. - as above, avoid yet if you don't need it).


TL;DR: You can say "The plan could yet succeed", but you probably don't want to. "The plan could still succeed" is more "natural" English today, particularly in spoken contexts (but it's not "informal").

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2  
I think "Do you yet love me?" would have the same meaning as "Do you love me still?", even though it sounds a little awkward. –  Ataraxia Jul 27 at 20:09
    
@Ataraxia: Perhaps I haven't explained myself very well. Rest assured almost no native speaker alive today would ever ask "Do you yet love me?". It's hopelessly dated/literary. –  FumbleFingers Jul 27 at 20:58
    
I know, I just thought it was worth mentioning. –  Ataraxia Jul 27 at 21:00
    
@Ataraxia: Hmm. The entire point of my answer was to convey that such usage is not worth bothering with. –  FumbleFingers Jul 27 at 21:02
    
I know. That's why I just mentioned it in the comments and didn't suggest that you add it to your answer. –  Ataraxia Jul 27 at 21:06

Yet synonyms:

  • even though
  • though
  • however
  • nevertheless

Still synonyms:

  • even
  • nevertheless
  • though
  • after all

synonyms from hereand here.

Sorry, I can't answer your question when to use it, can you please give an example? I will edit my answer.

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Actually my problem is the usage of them in the sentences. –  Ice Girl Jul 27 at 17:51

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