Another vs. Other in English

Another vs Other in English

My students recently asked me to explain the difference between Another vs. Other in English. I can see how the usage of these words can be confusing because they are very close in meaning, and here is my clarification on the topic:

Another

Is an adjective describing a singular nonspecific countable noun or pronoun. If you don’t remember what countable and uncountable nouns are, go back to the blog and review that topic first.

Meanings:

  • one more, an additional, an extra
  • a different one; an alternative one

Examples:

  • “Let’s meet another day.” (Let’s meet on a different day)
  • “I’d like another piece of cake.” (I’d like one more piece of cake)

The nouns (“day” and “piece”) in both sentences are countable and singular nouns.

The nouns in both sentences are also not specific. This means that the speaker doesn’t care which day or piece of cake he gets; he just wants a different one. He wants another one, but he hasn’t said (or it isn’t clear or important) which one.

Important notes:

1. Another is really “an (the indefinite article) + other.” You can use “another” before a noun whenever you can use the indefinite article “a(n)” before a noun.

2. Another can only be used before a plural noun when that noun is preceded by a number, or words/phrases such as a couple of, fewetc.

  • The investigation will take another two weeks/couple of weeks.

3. Another can be used before “one” when the meaning is clear from the preceding text

  • You’ve already had an ice-cream. You can’t have another one.

Other

Is an adjective describing a plural or uncountable nonspecific noun or pronoun.

Meaning:

  • different, alternative

Examples:

  • Other people have problems, too.” [people = plural noun]
  • “This book has other information.” [information = uncountable noun]

The nouns in both sentences are not specific, just like with “another”. The speaker doesn’t specify which other people have problems, or what other information the book has.

Important note:

If we use other before a singular countable noun or pronoun, we must use another determiner before it:

I don’t like the red one. I prefer the other colour. (Here the definite article the is the other determiner)

Jeremy is at university; our other son is still at school. (Here our is the other determiner)

He got 100% in the final examination. No other student has ever achieved that. (Here no is the other determiner)

There’s one other thing we need to discuss before we finish. (Here one is the other determiner)

Quiz

Choose between another, other and the other to complete the following text:

Three of my friends live in Boston. One is a doctor, one is a dentist, and _______________ one doesn’t have a job.
The friend without a job’s name is Craig. Craig needs a job. He also has ________________ problem: he needs a new girlfriend. His last girlfriend left him because she met ________________ man.  ________________ man was rich and handsome. I told Craig not to worry about it; there are many ________________ girls in the world.

Answers

Three of my friends live in Boston. One is a doctor, one is a dentist, and the other one doesn’t have a job. The friend without a job’s name is Craig. Craig needs a job. He also has another problem: he needs a new girlfriend. His last girlfriend left him because she met another man. The other man was rich and handsome. I told Craig not to worry about it; there are many other girls in the world.

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