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I've been trying to figure out archaic English grammar for a number of uses - an English assignment and an RPG, specifically - and have run into a bit of a speed bump. I am honestly stumped regarding the use of "yet," particularly in the following quotes:

"Yet a few days, and thee / the all-beholding sun..." - Thanatopsis

"Even if they were to leave Europe,... yet one of the first results of those sympathies for which the daemon thirsted...." - Frankenstein

How exactly is "yet" used in the context of these two quotes?

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  • Yet and still can be exchanged in these expressions. This is a feature of certain types of 19th century English prose. Dec 3, 2014 at 1:04

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The two quotes use yet in different senses. I would argue that only the first one is archaic, here used in a poetic sense.

"Yet a few days, and thee
The all-beholding sun shall see no more
In all his course; " - Thanatopsis

In this sense, yet is used to introduce a time in the future; equivalent to "a few days from now". But "A few days from now, you'll be dead" just doesn't have the same poetic ring to it!


"Even if they were to leave Europe, and inhabit the deserts of the new world, yet one of the first results of those sympathies for which the daemon thirsted would be children, and a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror." - Frankenstein

In this sense, yet is being used as a conjunction, to mean nevertheless or still:

Even if this change was made, yet this other consequence would occur.

Even if this change was made, still this other consequence would occur.

Even if this change was made, nevertheless this other consequence would occur.

Oxford Dictionaries online suggests "but at the same time" as another alternative for the use of yet as a conjunction, although it doesn't work as a direct substitute for this (conditional) sense. I'd argue that for this particular sentence yet is the best choice, although still is probably replacing it in modern usage.

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  • I think the statement about the greater prevalence of still in your last sentence is correct. However, in the example sentence you provided, a more idiomatic word order would be: "Even if this change was made, this other consequence would still occur".
    – Erik Kowal
    Dec 3, 2014 at 1:54
  • @ErikKowal That's very true. I was trying to keep it to single-word direct replacements, but the entire sentence structure is somewhat formal, given that "even if" and "yet" both emphasize the same relationship between the two clauses.
    – AmeliaBR
    Dec 3, 2014 at 2:00
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You might think about 'yet' as an emphatic particle, emphasizing the plethora of the immediately following noun or noun-phrase. It's perfectly all right to use this 'yet' in modern times. I often use it. When asked to describe my travels in southeast Asia (many years) I often break into Old English. '...Yet another white man doomed to rot under the tropic sun!' (one more of the many white men who became doomed under the tropic sun)--It gives the narration a Maugham-like quality.

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