Word of the Month: Yet and Still

David Zapatka

Reader Sally Teusch wrote after reading the May column, “I enjoy your column. Thank you. ‘It’s a few more miles yet’ or ‘It’s a few more miles, still.’ Looking forward to it. Warmly, Sally Teusch.”

Let’s dive in to both words to see where this journey takes us.

Yet: adverb ˈyet 1. in addition; besides. 2. on top of everything else. 3. up to now, so far. 4. continuously up to the present or a specified time.

Origin and Etymology: Middle English, from Old English gīet; akin to Old Frisian ieta.

First Used: Before the 12th century.

Used in a Sentence: No resumption of sit-down dining in the park is scheduled yet. — Christopher Reynolds, Los Angeles Times, “Yellowstone opens a bit more for summer, following Grand Canyon’s lead,” 30 May 2020. “I haven’t eaten dinner yet.” “I haven’t done my homework yet.”

Still: adverb ˈstil 1. without motion. 2. always, continually, in a progressive manner, increasingly. 3. continuance of an action or condition. 4. in spite of that, nevertheless.

Origin and Etymology: Middle English stille, from Old English; akin to Old High German stilli still and perhaps to Old English steall stall.

First Used: Before the 12th century.

Used in a Sentence: “I can still remember the incident.” “She still loves him.” “After four hours, it’s still raining.”

We use yet in a negative or interrogative clause, usually with perfective aspect, to show that something has not happened by a particular time. Yet refers to something which a person is longing for or expecting to start, complete or happen by a certain time, but it does not happen, start or complete until now. We use still to show that something continues up to a time in the past, present, or future. It goes in front of the main verb. Still talks about something which began in the past and it persists even now, as it is not completed or finished yet.

So back to Sally’s question, is it “It’s a few more miles yet” or “It’s a few more miles, still?” On one hand, it appears that yet is the correct usage because the writer may be longing for the journey to be completed after a few more miles. On the other hand, it appears that still is the correct usage because the passage of the miles have continued up to this time, began in the past, and is not yet completed. I’m not sure which one is most accurate, but feeling into it, still feels more right to me.

Let’s turn this into a poll. Which word do you think is correct to use? Or thirdly, do you think neither use is correct? I’ll post the results in the next column.

Please submit your experiences, any thoughts on this month’s column, or any word you may like to share along with your insights and comments to [email protected].