The Right Way to Use 'Already' and 'Yet' in English

Signed saying "are we there yet?" three times.

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The words already and yet are common words in English that generally refer to an event that has or has not happened before another event in the past or present:

  • She hasn't finished her assignment yet.

The event has not been completed up to the present moment in time.

  • Jennifer had already eaten by the time he arrived.

The event occurred before another event took place.

Present Perfect

Both already and yet refer to activities that have or haven't occurred before the present moment in time. In both cases, the adverb recently could be substituted with the same meaning:

  • I have already finished my lunch.

I've recently finished my lunch.

  • Have you seen Tom yet?

Have you seen Tom recently?

  • They haven't visited Rome yet.

They haven't visited Rome recently.

Referring to a Past Event

Already is used to indicate that something that happened before the moment of speaking. However, it refers to something that affects the present moment in time. Let's take a look at a few examples:

  • I have already finished the report.

This sentence could be used to express the idea that I finished the report and it is ready to read now.

  • She has already seen that film.

This sentence might express that the woman saw the film in the past, so she has no desire in the present moment to see the film.

  • They have already eaten.

This sentence would probably be used to state that they are no longer hungry.

The key to using already is to remember that an action that has happened in the past — often in the recent past — affects the present moment or a decision about the present moment in time. Therefore, already and yet are used with the present perfect tense.

Sentence Placement

Already is placed between the auxiliary verb have and the participle form of the verb. It is used in the positive form and should not be used in the negative:

Subject + have / has + already + past participle + objects

  • I have already seen that film.
  • Mary has already been to Seattle.

Incorrect usage:

  • I have seen already that film.

Already is generally not used in the question form. However, when expressing surprise in a rhetorical question it is sometimes used in informal conversations and added to the end of the sentence:

  • Have you eaten already?!
  • Have you finished already?!

Asking Questions

Yet is used to check whether something has occurred up to the present moment:

  • Have you seen that film yet?
  • Has Tim done his homework yet?

Yet is generally used to ask about something closer to the present moment. Yet is often used when someone expects something to have occurred before the moment of speaking:

  • Have you finished that report yet?

In this case, a colleague expects the report to be finished soon.

Question Placement

Yet is always placed at the end of a question. Notice that yet is not used with question words as questions with yet are yes/no questions:

Have + subject + past participle + objects + yet + ?

  • Have you finished that report yet?
  • Has she bought a new car yet?

Negative Form

Yet is also used in the negative to express that something that is expected has not yet happened. In this case, yet is placed at the end of the sentence.

Subject + have not / has not + past participle + objects + yet

  • She hasn't finished the report yet.
  • Doug and Tom haven't telephoned yet.

With the Past Perfect

Already can also be used with the past perfect to express that something had happened before something else:

  • She had already eaten when he arrived.
  • Jackson had already done his homework when he was asked for help.

With the Future Perfect

Already is also used with the future perfect to express that something will have been completed before something else occurs:

  • She will have already finished the paperwork before the meeting.
  • Frank will have already prepared the report by the time the boss asks for it.

Coordinating Conjunction

Finally, yet can also be used as a coordinating conjunction with the same meaning as but to connect two simple sentences into one. Place yet after a comma to introduce a dependent clause:

  • They'd like to go to that new restaurant, yet they can't get a reservation.
  • He'd already bought tickets to the play, yet he wasn't able to attend the performance.
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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "The Right Way to Use 'Already' and 'Yet' in English." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Beare, Kenneth. (2020, August 28). The Right Way to Use 'Already' and 'Yet' in English. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "The Right Way to Use 'Already' and 'Yet' in English." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 31, 2023).