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Other/another/the others


A question from Yenny.

I want to ask the difference between 'other', 'another' and 'the others' and how to use them.


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Professor Michael Swan answers:
Well Hallo Yenny. This is Michael Swan. Itís an interesting question. Theyíre quite complicated, arenít they? Basically, there are two ways to use other. You can use it before a noun, like an adjective, so you can say: "Another office", or you can use it alone, just like a noun, you can say ďIíll have anotherĒ and they work differently.

If itís like an adjective before a noun then you donít put 's' on the plural because adjectives donít have 's' Ė we say the other houses, not the others houses just like we say the big houses, not the bigs houses. So the other houses, the other people, the other political parties.

But if itís alone, like a noun, we do put 's' for the plural. So we do say Iíll take this cake, and you can have all the others. Or this car cost £8,000, and the others cost £10,000 upwards. We often use the others to mean ď the other peopleĒ so I might say ďIf you tell Jane, Iíll tell the othersĒ Ė means the other people.

Another Ė thatís just a spelling irregularity Ė for some reason we write it as one word. Donít ask me why, itís just one of those things. It started back in the 16th century, and we canít go back and ask them about it. Thereís one odd thing about another. You can use it before a plural expression with a number.

So for instance I might say Iíll need another three days to finish the work. Or sheís borrowed another £20. This might be connected with the fact that plural quantities are often treated as singular in English, so we say ď£5 is a lot to pay for a cup of coffee.Ē Not ''£5 are a lot''.

So, back to other Ė no 's' in the plural if itís an adjective, the other houses, 's' if itís a plural noun, Iíll tell the others. OK? Thanks for your question and good luck with your studies, Yenny.

Thank you.

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