A whole nother

  • The common phrase a whole nother, formed by splitting the adjective another, makes no sense from a logical or grammatical standpoint, but it is often used informally or to create a colloquial tone in writing. Because it is informal, the phrase might be considered out of place in any type of serious writing. A whole other makes more sense, and there are one-word equivalents, such as different, separate, and unrelated, that are usually better in formal contexts.


    Many writers insert an apostrophe in a whole ‘nother, but this would logically indicate that the writer means a whole another, which makes even less sense than a whole nother.



    In these examples, the writers use a whole nother (or a whole ‘nother) to create a light, informal tone:

    There’s also a gas/electric hybrid, which is a whole ‘nother animal. []

    But that’s on a whole ‘nother level compared to what it has done to Green, the edgy, arty poster boy for reflective, solemn character studies. [Charleston City Paper]

    As the pictures up top and at left attest, he was seeing the puck just fine; stopping it, however, was a whole ‘nother matter. [Edmonton Journal]


    1. I know it’s incorrect, but I catch myself saying it every time I mean to say ‘a whole other’. It seems to roll off the tongue better.

      • grammar2013 says:

        I agree.

      • Like “an apple” versus “a apple”.

        • David 'Haggis' Haysom says:

          but we don’t use a with words beginning with vowels or vowel sounds so “an apple” is correct “a apple” is not

          • The reason it’s incorrect, the original reason “a” became “an” before a vowel-starting-word is to “roll off the tongue better”, to put some consonant crackle between those loosey-goose vowels. Perhaps a similar dynamic explains “a whole nother”: the last phoneme of “whole” is a loosey-goose form of “L”.

    2. AnnKittenplan says:

      Isn’t this an example of tmesis?

    3. johnlascurettes says:

      Just for the record, on typesetting this article, “‘nother” should be written as “’nother” – note the use of an actual apostrophe on the latter example rather than a single opening quote.

      • Grammarist says:

        Unfortunately, our content management system automatically renders the apostrophe like that and doesn’t offer a way to differentiate the marks. We’ll have to try to find a fix.

      • Grammarist says:

        It seems our content management system automatically renders the apostrophe like that when it’s at the start of a word. We’ll have to look for a fix.

        • The explanation’s not that simple: most (though not all) of the “Till, until, ’til” article has the leading apostrophes rendered correctly.

    4. isn’t this an example of an ‘infix’? Like abso-b****y -lutely?

    5. bzbillzack1 says:

      Oh Brother!
      Is it Nother or Other?
      Or is it Nother nor Other?
      Let’s call the whole thing off!

    6. bzbillzack1 says:

      Is it Nipple or Sipple?

    7. try instead, “another whole”

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