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Assuming a male speaker is referring to an ex-partner, which of the following is more correct?

  1. She left me for another woman
  2. She left me for a woman

The phrase She left me for another man has always made sense to me because the omission of another would suggest that she did not have a man before she left (a subtle self-deprecation on the part of the speaker). Similarly, a female speaker would say He left me for another woman.

Should the rules change when the new partner is of the same gender?

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I'm sorry that happened! ;) –  Trufa Feb 4 '11 at 3:39
    
youtube.com/watch?v=gaml6qT0LEo –  e.James Feb 4 '11 at 7:50
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I have no idea how to select the accepted answer here. Several well-explained and slightly different choices lead me to believe that the correct answer is "it's complicated" :) –  e.James Feb 8 '11 at 2:58
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5 Answers

Contrary to the other answers, I think "she left me for another woman" is perfectly fine, and does not imply anything about her earlier relationships (other than with the speaker). It is true that in a sentence like "she left me for another man", the another means other than myself, a meaning which does not apply (since the speaker is male) to "she left me for another woman". But here, "another" can mean other than herself. For instance, in a sentence like "Shane was pleased to see another Australian in Cairo", the "another" only means "other than himself", and does not imply that he'd seen other Australians before. Similarly, "she left me for another woman" does not necessarily imply that she'd been with a woman before, I think.

That said, I think "she left me for a woman" is fine, too. It does not have the problem you mentioned that "she left me for a man" would have (self-deprecation on part of the male speaker), and if some people are going to (mis?)interpret "another woman" as meaning that there was already another "another woman", then it's probably best to avoid "another".

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+1 - The another refers to a woman other than herself. It's not entirely unusual for a woman to leave her partner for another man, but comparatively more unusual for a woman (who was previously considered heterosexual) to leave her male partner for a woman - hence the use of another to stress this fact. –  CJM Feb 4 '11 at 11:57
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It could also mean that she left me for a woman, came back to me, then left me again for a different woman. –  oosterwal Feb 4 '11 at 21:24
    
@ShreevatsaR The first paragraph of your answer claims that "another" qualifies "woman" to mean "other than herself". This is problematic. The problematic implication is that when the speaker leaves out the "another" then the meaning is that woman she left for could in fact be the woman herself. –  MετάEd Sep 29 '12 at 4:21
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@MετάEd: No, I wrote the first paragraph explicitly to clarify that "another" can mean either "other than herself" or "other than myself" — neither of the meanings necessarily follows. And I stand by the claim that depending on context, "another" can mean either of these things; that was the point of the examples. –  ShreevatsaR Sep 29 '12 at 7:14
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@MετάEd: (Also, whatever I or anyone else says about "another", none of it has bearing on, or leads to, the interpretation of "she left me for a woman" as "she left me for herself".) Language isn't always logical, and moreover even logically, the fact that "another" can mean "other than herself" doesn't imply anything about what happens when "another" is left out. To go back to my example, "Shane was happy to see an Australian in Cairo" does not under the natural interpretation suggest the possibility that it was himself that he saw. –  ShreevatsaR Sep 29 '12 at 7:21
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Assuming a male speaker,

She left me for another woman

implies she left the man for a woman, having already been with women in the past. The “another” refers to the fact that there already are women in the woman’s past, and the one she left the man for is one more.

She left me for a woman

implies she left the man for a woman, and this is the first time she has been with a woman, as far as the speaker knows.

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I think the second sentence implies nothing about it being the first time or not. If she left me for a woman, but she has other women in her past, I can still say "she left me for a woman". –  R. Martinho Fernandes Feb 4 '11 at 5:19
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Neither does the first, IMHO. "Another" can simply mean 'other than herself'. See my answer. –  ShreevatsaR Feb 4 '11 at 9:40
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Weird sample sentence, but anyway.

Considering that "another" in this context means "different or distinct", it seems appropriate to use simply "She left me for a woman".

"another" would seem to indicate that there is some woman in the equation that she is no longer with.

In a similar example, you could say.

"My wife bought a purse. She didn't like it, so she returned it and bought another [purse]."

But:

"My wife bought a purse. She didn't like it, so she returned it and bought a belt."

The only reason to insert "another" in the second sentence is if you're implying that she already has a belt currently (and that this adds to the collection). In this context, "another" would mean "being one more or more of the same".

Definitions from Dictionary.com

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Sorry to disagree, but this is simply wrong. In your purse example, the woman is getting a purse. In the other example, she is getting a woman. –  Robusto Feb 4 '11 at 0:22
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@Andrew Flanagan: If your wife leaves you for a woman she is going to be having a relationship with a woman. If I trade you for a cow, I'm getting a cow. If I then trade that cow for magic beans, I'm getting beans. –  Robusto Feb 4 '11 at 0:36
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@Robusto My question remains, what on earth does this have to do with the use of "another"? I'm not clear what I'm missing. If I trade my cow for another cow, I'm indicating that it's a different cow. If I trade my cow for another pig, I'm indicating that I already have pigs and this is just one more. –  Andrew Flanagan Feb 4 '11 at 0:41
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@Robusto Which, as far as I understand it, is exactly what the sentence attempts to express. +1 for @Andrew. –  deceze Feb 4 '11 at 3:32
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On the other hand, the "another" may also mean "other than herself". (In a sentence like "He was pleased to see another Australian in Cairo", it doesn't necessarily mean he'd already seen one.) –  ShreevatsaR Feb 4 '11 at 9:15
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If you say

She left me for a woman.

it would imply that she had given up on you and on men in general.

If you say

She left me for another woman.

it implies that you think of yourself as a woman, or she does (or did).

If neither of the above is true, it is correct to say

She left me for another man.

The idea here is that "She left me [to go with] another man."

The for in this case is used in its sense of "assigning" one thing to another.

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"She left me for another woman" doesn't imply that you think of yourself as a woman - it can simply mean "a woman other than her". It's redundant, but it's acceptable (at least where I come from :) –  psmears Feb 4 '11 at 10:23
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"She left me for a woman" is more correct but "She left me for another woman" has a poetic and humorous quality, being a play on a standard form.

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+1 This is closest to what is actually happening. "Left me for another man/woman" and "the other man/woman" are well known stock phrases referring to the third in a lover's triangle. The speaker is influenced by the stock phrase to say "left me for another woman" even when it would be more succinct and accurate to have said "left me for a woman". –  MετάEd Sep 29 '12 at 4:24
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protected by tchrist Sep 29 '12 at 14:44

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