I just edited this answer on unix.sx. The original sentence was

But it won't transform it to an other format.

I changed this to

But it won't transform it to another format.

The second form is standard, but is the first correct?

  • 2
    There is the possibility that you should have corrected it to "any other" instead of "another"... :-)
    – Hellion
    Jan 31, 2012 at 3:57
  • @Hellion: What is the difference between these? Jan 31, 2012 at 4:12
  • 2
    “Any other” and “another” are very similar in meaning, but not always interchangeable. “He loves another woman” means a particular woman. “He loves any other woman” means he is not so particular.
    – MetaEd
    Jan 31, 2012 at 15:24
  • @MetaEd: Sure. My question was about which was more suitable in this context, and why. Jan 31, 2012 at 16:12
  • 2
    When things are promoted or defended solely because of fashion or tradition, it means there is no real justification. Hence my skepticism every time there is mention of either word.
    – user27283
    Oct 11, 2012 at 8:05

4 Answers 4


The string an other is vanishingly rare in English. In contrast another is positively pervasive. I think it would be fair to say that the second has eclipsed the first to the point of making the first unacceptable, even though it is a grammatical string.

Both an and another are members of the category of determiners, while other, on the other hand, is an adjective. There's no grammatical reason why DET + ADJ would be unacceptable. So, it must simply be a matter of convention that makes an other unacceptable...

  • 2
    "An other" is not preferred and, perhaps, even generally avoided because it is out of fashion, but is it really unacceptable if it is not incorrect?
    – Jota
    Mar 18, 2014 at 5:07
  • 1
    There is a reason: another blocks the ungrammatical combination *an other.
    – user28567
    Jul 29, 2015 at 19:57

Here is a general rule of thumb: if you mean "a different [noun]", then it is more appropriate to use "an other"; if you mean "an additional [noun]", then it is more appropriate to use "another".

So in your example you should use "But it won't transform it to an other format."

Also take a look at Brett Reynolds' answer. It is good from a syntactical point of view.

  • 1
    Do you have any sources for this rule? I can find no dictionary support for it, or indeed for the existence of ‘an other’ in current English at all, whereas both meanings you mention are given for ‘another’ in all dictionaries I have checked. Jul 17, 2013 at 10:34
  • No, I was just speaking for experience. That "rule of thumb" is just something I made up because there are cases when "another" doesn't fit with what you are actually trying to say.
    – MageWind
    Jul 19, 2013 at 1:28
  • I've thought about this more, and I don't think this answer is completely accurate. I think it is more common to use "another" in either case. However, "an other" does emphasize that you are talking about a different something, whereas "another" implies that you are talking about some other random thing.
    – MageWind
    Mar 9, 2016 at 6:19
  • oneminuteenglish.org/en/an-other-vs-another This source suggests the same usage as MageWind, and this one suggests the original use was the 'additional' use etymonline.com/word/another though I'd say "another" can be used in either case now.
    – Jay
    Feb 19, 2023 at 15:17

In my opinion, just because "an other" is "vanishingly rare", that doesn't make its usage "unacceptable". In my situation, which is advising (via a letter) a candidate for an employment position who has not been chosen, it doesn't seem appropriate for me to tell him that "another" candidate has been selected, but it does seem appropriate for me to tell him that "an other" candidate has been selected. My aversion to "another" is because that seems to me to be saying that an additional candidate has been selected, rather than a different candidate being selected. Bottom line...that distinction is my "rule of thumb" too.

  • 1
    Both an other and another can have both the meanings that you suggest, and the candidate has no way of knowing that you personally differentiate between them in this way.
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 28, 2014 at 17:05
  • 2
    I think user67403 is pointing out how using one is a stylist way of emphasizing something.
    – Hogan
    Apr 23, 2014 at 17:50
  • When faced with this situation, I came to the same conclusion; namely, that another implies an additional, as in 'Mom, can I have another cookie?', whereas an other implies a different one. Jun 8, 2015 at 15:49
  • 1
    Agreed but wouldn't telling her "a different" candidate was selected be more concise?
    – EllieK
    Feb 14, 2017 at 19:51

Historically, another and an other are simply two ways to write the same thing, and those dictionaries that are extensive in their example quotations may include an other as an example of another.

A similar word is cannot which is merely a way to write can not.

There is no difference in meaning between the two; all meanings of all sense of one are also a meaning of a sense of the other.

But history having moved on, we simply don't use an other much as we don't use mannes for man's, neyther for neither, and so on. As such your edit was correct.

About the one case I can think of where an other is to be favoured over another is if translating Rimbaud's "Je est un autre", I'd favour "I is an other" to "I is another", but bending the rules to put an emphasis on the word other in this way is acceptable precisely because one has already broken them in using the rule-breaking "I is…" to match the rule-breaking "Je est…".

  • 2
    LOL at the person who tried to "fix" the Rimbaud quote to "Je suis".
    – Jon Hanna
    Apr 28, 2017 at 9:00
  • They seem to have gotten the translation wrong on Wikiquote as per your feeling. Feb 27, 2019 at 3:40
  • @AlexisWilke well, not wrong as in there's no way to say definitively just how deliberately non-standard French should be translated. At least it keeps "I is…" rather than "I am…" which ends up as something quite different again.
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 27, 2019 at 10:01

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