I have a problem with understanding the difference between 'already' and 'yet'. Are these examples correct and do they mean the same?

  1. Have they already done it?
  2. Have they done it yet?
  3. Haven't they done it yet?
  • possible duplicate of Usage of "already" and "yet" Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 7:38
  • I haven't found there any suggestions for "Haven't they done it yet".
    – kacherese
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 7:48
  • Questions are more complex than statements, and negatives are more complex than affirmatives. Don't use complicated examples if you really want to know about already and yet. Yet is a Negative Polarity Item (NPI), so you can't say *He has done it yet, because there's no negative present to license it. You can, however, say He has done it already, because already is not an NPI. That's the major difference. Both refer to a length of time starting in the past and extending to the present; that's why they occur so often with the perfect. Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 14:45

1 Answer 1


To be fair, this is a slightly different usage.

Have they done it yet?

can certainly be used to mean an unmarked 'I know they have this on their to-do list. Have they ticked it off yet?'

But it is often used in a testy way, conveying a sense of impatience and annoyance. The 'done' is stressed in speech to mark for this.

Have they already done it?

is a little less usual in conversation, but could be the unmarked usage when it is used. But it could also mark for surprise, either pleasant or concerned. The 'done' would be emphasised in speech to show this.

Have they done it already?

is the more usual choice to register surprise (either variety); the temporal adverb is now stressed.

The previous question looks at other sentences containing these words.

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