2

Background: I have many friends called John (at work, at church and at college). Now, I have a music school where I'm the teacher. How would I say:

1) I don't know how I still don't have a student called John in my music school.

2) I don't know how I don't have a student called John in my music school yet.

3) I don't know how I don't have a student called John in my music school already.

I'm very confused about the use of these words.

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I would use:

2) I don't know why I don't have a student called John in my music class yet.

yet is best in a negative statement meaning the time up to the up to now.
See yet:

  1. adverb
    You use yet in negative statements to indicate that something has not happened up to the present time, although it probably will happen. You can also use yet in questions to ask if something has happened up to the present time.

still in a negative context implies that something might happen, but is not necessarily expected.
See still:

  1. adverb
    If something that has not yet happened could still happen, it is possible that it will happen. If something that has not yet happened is still to happen, it will happen at a later time.

already cannot be used in the absence of an action. You cannot say "I did not go to the store already".

Ultimately, the choice of "yet" vs. "still" depends on your expectation of whether you will get a student named John. If you are really looking forward to having a student named John in your class, you should use "still".

Also I would leave "yet" at the end, because the rest of the sentence is a complete thought, with yet modifying it to give the time reference.

  • I think using 'why' instead of 'how' changes the meaning of the sentence. – user42526 Feb 10 '17 at 15:22
  • @JamesP Perhaps. Please elaborate. – user3169 Feb 10 '17 at 18:23
4

You have a lot of possibilities here. First of all, as it stands, your first sentence is the best one. But those sentences do not really account for the past.

Here are a few possibilities to improve your sentence:

I don't know how I (still) have not had a student named John in my music school (still). - (pick one spot for "still")

I don't know how I have not (yet) had a student named John in my music school (yet). - (pick one spot for "yet")

I don't know how I have not had a student named John in my music school by now.

I don't know how I have not (already) had a student named John in my music school (already). - (pick one spot for "already")

All of these sentences are almost equivalent in meaning, but I personally don't really like using "already" here as it means something slightly different in terms of time passed.

If you want, you can also use a different sentence structure with multiple clauses like:

I don't know how, but I have yet to have a student named John in my music school.

This last one is by far my favorite. In addition, as you can see in all those sentences, "yet" is the most versatile and natural of all of them and can be used in numerous ways, so you cannot go wrong with it.

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