It is well known that, as CGEL puts it (p. 391),

Determinative another derives historically from the compounding of the indefinite article and the adjective other; the consequence of this for the modern language is that the existence of the determinative another blocks the co-occurrence of the indefinite article and other as separate syntactic constituents: *an other book.

Thus, an another would, in effect, contain two indefinite articles in sequence ('an an other'). Therefore, it should be unacceptable. It is indeed condemned as such here, here, here, here, and here.

Nevertheless, published literature seems to contain a surprising number of usages of an another. In what follows, I will try to include only works that 1. are likely written by native speakers; 2. do not contain other obvious errors nearby that would signal substandard editing; 3. are from not too-distant past. One could dismiss these as simple mistakes, except... when a mistake becomes widespread enough, it ceases to be a mistake, and becomes an acceptable alternative usage. Here, then, are ten examples of an another from published literature:

[1] If not, place it in an another pile, to be reviewed again. (source)

[2] Because the meaning of the words that are used to express thoughts are unique to each individual, there is an another unbridgeable gap between one person's thoughts and those of another. (source)

[3] In an another embodiment, the kit further includes a peripheral vascular access structure for peripheral implantation in a patient. (source)

[4] The deliberate indifference standard is met when a person knows of, and yet disregards or ignores, an excessive risk to an another's health or safety. (source)

[5] Skinner saw no reason to relate his data to data arrived at an another level of observation by other sciences. (source)

[6] Croce diagnoses Hegel's confusion about distincts as what anglophone philosophers since Ryle have called a 'category mistake.' To think of a piece of art as evil, an intellectual achievement as useful, or a properly functioning object as beautiful is like thinking of the university as an additional building on campus, team-spirit as an another player on the team, or the Average Tax Payer as a fellow-citizen. (source)

[7] In an another study, 24 patients status post hysterectomy received postoperative IMRT... (source)

[8] In September 1795, she returned to England, but finding Imlay living with an another woman, she again attempted suicide, this time jumping into the Thames River. (source)

[9] Pertaining to an organism that lives as a parasite on an another animal. (source)

[10] More suspicious was the discovery by the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) that De Amuedo had purchased, in cash, a $7,500 draft and an another $500 in traveler's checks at the San Juan branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia. (source)

As best as I can tell, in all of these examples, one can (and probably should?) drop the an in front of another. Even allowing for the possibility that sometimes an another could be acceptable, in these examples, I can't detect any believable change in meaning if the an is dropped.

The above is hardly an exhaustive list; I am sure there are many more examples. I have only gone through a fraction of hits from this search on gooogle books (note that most of these hits are false positives, though, usually consisting of an' another, which in reality is and another).


Can we really dismiss examples like these as mere mistakes? I am tempted to say 'yes', and yet... there seem to be too many of them. Could it be that an another is at least marginally acceptable now?

  • Underlining is not accessible, so can you edit? In addition, the instances of "source" and "here" should also be changed because it's confusing to have so many links with the same generic link text.
    – Laurel
    Jun 9, 2022 at 14:02

1 Answer 1


...when a mistake becomes widespread enough, it ceases to be a mistake, and becomes an acceptable alternative usage.

This isn't quite true... If everyone (including those making the mistake in the first place) agrees that it's wrong, it's a mistake.

If this were to be a new development in the English language, so new it's not endorsed by any grammar authorities, it wouldn't be used in your examples. Different types of speech/writing have different levels of conservativeness when it comes to language change. Academic writing in particular is one of the most conservative types of writing out there. Even contractions, as widespread as they are everywhere else, are hardly used in academic writing, so it's more likely that "an another" was simply missed by reviewers and not some new form they approved intentionally.

Why is this mistake so common?

I think it's an easy mistake to overlook. It is almost certainly related this classic trick:

Paris (newline) in the (newline) the spring

If you are like many people, the first time you see the graphic above, you read, “Paris in the spring.” Look again. It says, “Paris in the the spring.” This is a well-known case of expectation affecting perception. You expect only one definite determiner, so you don’t realize the stimulus contains two. This trick doesn’t work if we write “Paris Paris in the spring,” or “Paris in the spring spring.” The key is to repeat a function word because we tend to take words like the for granted. A similar perception trick repeats the “a” of “Once upon a time.” Again, it capitalizes on the fact that a is a function word.
What is Morphology?

Also, many grammar checkers will not catch it. Some catch duplicated words—but no "words" are duplicated in "an another". If a grammar checker does catch this mistake, it's because its designers made sure it caught this specific mistake (you have already linked to an example like this).

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