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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