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This is a question about American English usage of the word "already". As a UK resident I don't completely understand when I hear Americans give commands like "Stop it already!" In the UK the word already is not normally used in the imperative mood and the sentence I've just quoted would leave an English person thinking "If you're saying I've already stopped it why are you asking me to stop it again?"

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4 Answers

It is informal, and I understand it to express impatience, i.e. to mean something like “right now”. The New Oxford American Dictionary has:

(informal) used as an intensive after a word or phrase to express impatience: enough already with these crazy kids and their wacky dances!

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Thanks, good answer. I can understand the phrase "Enough already" which can mean that enough (of whatever) has already happened so it is time it stopped. But in the context "Let's get going already!" I think this can only be informal usage, it doesn't make sense because it's like asking for something to be done in the past. –  Klitos Kyriacou Mar 1 '11 at 0:18
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@Klitos: first of all, languages don't have to be logical. The very expression "to make sense" stops making sense if you overanalyze it. Secondly, as Neil Coffey is pointing out elsewhere on this page, there are identical constructions in French (déjà) and Spanish (ya). I will throw in Russian for good measure (уже́). Lastly and most importantly, words can have multiple meanings. If "go" is allowed to have 50+ meanings, why can't "already" have a measly two? –  RegDwigнt Mar 1 '11 at 10:58
    
@RegDwightΒВBẞ8 Good call on French&Spanish: ¡Basta ya! is perfectly idiomatic for Stop it already! Also, Portuguese has and Italian has già in the same “already” sense. For already adv., the OED has six subsenses, although as late as 1989’s OED2 they still relegate this one to a “non-standard idiomatic use”; viz. “U.S. [tr. Yiddish shoyn (also Pennsylvania German schu(u)n)], in final position, to denote emphasis, exasperation, etc.; in Yiddish-influenced speech: freq. ‘now’, as ‘Enough, already!’ [tr. Yiddish genug, shoyn!].” –  tchrist May 24 '12 at 15:46
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This is most likely rooted from the Yiddish idiom, as in "enough, already", and can be taken to indicate lack of patience in most contexts.

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Out of curiosity, what's the reason for assuming that's the root? The word for "already" in other languages can have a close meaning (e.g. compare "ya" in Spanish, the usual word for "already", which is often used as a similar intensifier). Even French "déjà" can have a similar function "Déjà, faut que t'arrête tes conneries!" is quite close to "Stop messing about already!"). –  Neil Coffey Mar 1 '11 at 1:43
    
It's just how I understand the phraseology, though this quote from the New York Times backs me up somewhat: "The origin is the Yiddish genug shoyn, literally ''enough already.'' It is part of an array of phrases using shoyn for emphasis, from the similar gut shoyn, ''All right already!'' in the sense of ''Stop bugging me,'' to shvayg shtil shoyn, ''Shut up already!'' one calibration more irritated than genug shoyn." –  lotsoffreetime Mar 1 '11 at 22:35
    
Me again - more etymology from that quote: "''This use of already began to appear early in the century,'' says Sol Steinmetz, the lexicographer who has taken the place of the late Leo Rosten as my primary Yiddish adviser, ''among immigrant Yiddish speakers living in New York who were just starting to talk English. By the 1930's it had become common usage among their children who no longer spoke Yiddish -- a development that enabled it to entrench itself in the American language.''" –  lotsoffreetime Mar 1 '11 at 22:46
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The implication of an imperative with "already" is that the proper time for carrying out the command has passed, and the person being spoke to is remiss in waiting to be told:

Bob: Oh, I really should be going. My meeting starts in a minute.

Mary: So leave already!

Mary's point is that Bob should have left some time ago, and she's annoyed by his delay.

Be careful when using this construction. Saying it to your boss, for example, if he is an American and at all ill-natured, would be a CLM, a Career-Limiting Move.

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Not only is already used in this way informal, it can be downright peremptory and even aggressive, but it is always imperative. It indicates that the speaker is out of patience and wants to end this part of the conversation and proceed to the next stage (or to exit it altogether).

Examples:

Stop being such a jerk already!

Shut up already! We've gone over the details, now let's just do this thing.

Are you going to let him push you around like that? Grow a pair already! Fight back!

Now, it doesn't have to be an angry or negative statement. It can be spoken among friends

You want me to introduce you to that chick? So buy me a beer already.

Dude! I haven't seen you in, like, months. Sit your ass down already and tell me what's shakin' with you.

or lovers

Yeah, it was a great party. But enough talk — unzip my dress already!

I like to read too, but right now I want you to put down that book and give me a kiss already.

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protected by RegDwigнt May 24 '12 at 15:47

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