I have searched on the internet but the explanations are in Chinese, which I can't understand.

What is the difference between these two (pairs of) sentences?

  • I have 2 pens. One is red, another is black.
  • I have 2 pens. One is red, the other is black.
  • I am confused as well Here is an example which is more confusing: Sometimes Fran's emotions conflict with her brain, her heart pulling one way and her head pulling... A) another B) the other
    – Valijon
    May 11, 2016 at 11:08
  • @Valijon It could be either, because "way" means the same thing as "direction". Now it is possible to think that there are just two directions - e.g. left or right. So using that rationale it would be "one or the other". However if you postulate many directions e.g. north, south, east, west, north-west, south-east etc then it woul be "one or another (an other)"
    – WS2
    Mar 31, 2023 at 22:24

1 Answer 1


It has to be:

'I have two pens, one is red, the other is black.' You cannot say 'another' because that suggests there is more than one. And if there were only two to begin with, there can only be one.

But if I started out with three pens, I could say:

'I have three pens, one is red, another is black'.

  • 2
    I've just stumbled on this explanation and I can't understand it, could you please elaborate on it a bit more? I don't understand why "another" means more than one. In particular what is the meaning of the last sentence? Does it mean that one pen is red and the two others are black? Or it means one is red, one is black and one has an unknown color?
    – ixSci
    Apr 25, 2016 at 9:29
  • 1
    Yes, one is red, one black, and I haven't yet told you the colour of the third one. It is just that if there is one of something you use the. The house where my aunt lives is in a forest. If there are potentially more than one of something, you can only use the indefinite article a. Would you like a cup of tea?. (No specific cup of tea is involved) But Would you like THE cup of tea which I just poured? (It is a specific cup of tea). So it works the same for an other and the other. .
    – WS2
    Apr 25, 2016 at 17:02
  • 1
    ah, thank you! I just never thought of "another" as "an other"
    – ixSci
    Apr 25, 2016 at 17:06

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