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Merriam-Webster says about another the following:

being one more in addition to one or more of the same kind
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/another

However, I come across such sentences as: “I am giving another three books away”, “give me another 2 flowers”. I think it’s fine to say “give me another twenty minutes” as it is a period of time, but I wonder about “another two books/flowers”. Is it grammatically correct? Another thing which seems to be suspicious is that I can’t find such examples in dictionaries.

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I'd use another to mean one more and would say Give me three more, please, not another 3. –  user21497 Oct 22 '12 at 23:30
    
Yes, all your example sentences are perfectly fine — in the right contexts. –  tchrist Oct 22 '12 at 23:43
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I think this is a fascinating question (well, I answered, so I would, wouldn't I?). There does seem to be a bias against another + plural, but I'm not sure the "exemption" is just time-spans. I know "I'll take another dozen roses, please" is cheating a bit, but I think another + round number is also "more acceptable" to me. –  FumbleFingers Oct 23 '12 at 0:57
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@Chris: Maybe you see no "restriction" on usage, but that doesn't alter the fact that then another two loses out to then two more, even though then another one is now more common than then one more. Usage does differ according to "plurality", it seems to me. By your logic, then another one should be less common, since you're claiming "one" there is redundant (i.e. - I'd miss lots of instances, because they'd just be "then another"). –  FumbleFingers Oct 23 '12 at 2:59
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@Chris: I'm not "introducing" subtleties - all I've done is find usage stats to back up OP's suggestion that timespans occur relatively more often (and by implication, are more "acceptable") than other another + plural usages (which do indeed seem to be avoided by many). Your idea that "flow issues" are a significant factor in this usage bias just seems unlikely to me. –  FumbleFingers Oct 23 '12 at 12:13

3 Answers 3

It is perfectly acceptable in any but the most formal contexts. It probably would not be used in legal or diplomatic texts, which must avoid any possible ambiguity, however far-fetched; but it's fine in anything less restricted than that. Here, for instance, is a footnote from an impeccably academic text, Jon B. Sherman, The Magician in Medieval German Literature, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2008:

Thorndike eventually continued his work, adding another three books that investigated the post medieval period up to the seventeenth century.

And it's not a modern vulgarism, either. Here's an extract from William Burt Harlow, An Introduction to Early English Literature, 1884, p.132:

By 1595 he had completed another three books of the "Faery Queen."

(I should perhaps add that this use is not confined to threes of others—“another three” was my Google search term.)

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I need to point out that "another three centuries" is a time period which is looked upon as something singular. "Another three months of delay" falls in the same category of periods of time. I include an example from this category in my question myself. –  user1425 Oct 22 '12 at 23:54
    
"And it's not a modern vulgarism, either." [About to be facetious:] You're right. It's a traditional vulgarism, which makes it perfectly okay to use today. This is why I love the historical argument about language use. :-) –  user21497 Oct 22 '12 at 23:56
    
Fair enough. I have provided new citations. My point was merely that uses, not dictionaries, are the final authorities. –  StoneyB Oct 23 '12 at 0:19
    
@BillFranke But I have to confess that "post medieval" is in my opinion a modern vulgarism. –  StoneyB Oct 23 '12 at 0:28
    
@StoneyB: It's not bad for a term unearthed by archaeologists. And at least it's consistently Latinate. –  user21497 Oct 23 '12 at 1:34

Using another in this way forms a commonly used English phrase.

Per the Macmillan Dictionary:

another two/ten/hundred etc.

used for saying how many more people or things there are

If you're confused about the number of things that can follow another, Macmillan has this usage note in the link that I cited:

Another can be used in the following ways:

as a determiner (followed by a singular countable noun): Can I have another glass of water, please?

as a pronoun (without a following noun): We're changing from one system to another. (followed by "of"): I have another of his books somewhere.

I hope this answers the questions that you raise in your comments.

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Indeed, it gives such an example: Another 200 nurses are needed in local hospitals. What about then: (Some) other 200 nurses are needed in local hospitals. –  user1425 Oct 23 '12 at 0:01
    
@user1425: You can't overanalyse. Sometimes another really does just mean "an extra". –  FumbleFingers Oct 23 '12 at 1:00
    
But I think only with numbers as you stated. I think it's not a good construction anyway: Another nurses are needed....... –  user1425 Oct 23 '12 at 6:00
    
@user1425 See my expanded answer; this is a case that requires a singular countable noun: Another nurse is needed. –  Gnawme Oct 23 '12 at 15:48

I agree with OP - then another one sounds "normal". It's almost as common as then one more...

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...whereas then another two doesn't sit so well. On average, we definitely avoid it...

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I also believe OP is correct when he says that a span of time, for example, can be treated as a "single unit" in this context. If you say "I'll be ready in another five minutes", you're thinking of a period that long, not "five times the duration of one minute".

Google Books reports 2590 hits for then another five minutes, but only 192 for then five more minutes, so obviously that strong bias against another+plural doesn't apply to familiar time-spans.


I don't think there's any real "point of grammar" involved - here's Professor Michael Swan at the BBC World Service...

There’s one odd thing about another. You can use it before a plural expression with a number.

In short, whilst there's nothing grammatically preventing us asking the greengrocer for "another three apples", it turns out we're much more likely to ask for "three more apples". I think that's partly because we don't normally think of three apples as a unit, the way we do five minutes.

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You can't trust that number Google Books puts up at the top of the first page. A) It's not consistent from time to time - the numbers I got were 6,230 and 321. B) It's not clear what it counts. I always go to the last page offered, and the number there gives the count of hits reported. In this case it was 43 and 25. –  StoneyB Oct 23 '12 at 1:16
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@StoneyB: Yeah, I know the absolute numbers aren't reliable. But the direction they point in is true, so I'm quite happy to use them. I'd still get the same bias for ten minutes, two days in one direction, and with four apples or seven packets it's be the other way. So don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. –  FumbleFingers Oct 23 '12 at 2:52
    
Fair enough; but there's a big difference between 12 or 20 to 1 and 2 to 1. And unless you go cite-by-cite you never spot any contextual factor you haven't factored in. –  StoneyB Oct 23 '12 at 4:23
    
@StoneyB: I'm no statistician, but recognising distribution patterns has always been part of my job. It seems clear to me "pluralised timespans" occur relatively more often with another. For example, another five minutes seems to occur twice as often as five more minutes plus five minutes more. Any other factors are likely to be tiny compared to that huge bias, given that then another seven (which rarely involves timespans) is much less common than then seven more. I simply don't see your substantive point. –  FumbleFingers Oct 23 '12 at 11:57
    
Some questions the mere A:B ratio does not address: Who uses A rather B? Are they populations which differ by dialect, age, education? In what semantic contexts do they use A rather than B? In what social contexts or linguistic registers? Is there a perceived semantic distinction between A & B? -- By itself, more A than B tells us little, and the smaller the ratio the less it tells us. –  StoneyB Oct 23 '12 at 12:16

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