Even, Yet, and Still

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Until recently I thought that the pleonasm “even still” was to be found only in the uncertain writings of college freshmen. Then I read this in the current issue of my favorite writer’s magazine:

Traditionally published books get the nice displays, posters and extra attention from store managers. Even still, many of the titles end up in the bargain bin.

I did a Google search and found millions of examples of the wretched expression. It seems to be especially popular in the titles of songs, poems, and blogs. Here are some examples:

. …even still, I’d happily do it all over again.
…even still, Safari sucks.
Even still we lose our way
Is Anyone Even Still Blogging Anymore?

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I’ll try to explain why “even still” does not belong in careful writing.

As adverbs modifying comparatives, the words are virtually interchangeable:

She is even happier today than she was yesterday. She is still happier today than she was yesterday.
Fans want still more details of their favorite celebrities. Fans want even more details…

If the expression is intended to mean “still,” then “still” is enough:

Is anyone still blogging?

If it is intended to mean “yet,” then “yet” or one of its synonyms should serve: nevertheless, however, notwithstanding:

Nevertheless, I’d happily do it all over again.
Notwithstanding, Safari sucks.
Nevertheless, we lose our way.

That being said, sometimes the words even and still can come together correctly when the “even” is being used as an intensifier and the “still” is an adverb of time:

Do they even still make Zima?
Why Hilary is even still in the raceā€¦.

Finally, here’s a dilly of a headline that I’ll leave to our readers to sort out:

Yet Even Still More U.S. Presidential Election Maps Already

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15 thoughts on “Even, Yet, and Still”

  1. It looks like these are more examples of folks who are afraid to “let the word do the work,” huh?

  2. I’m an Obama supporter, but I hate when people call her “Hilary.” I dislike her as much as anyone, but Mrs. Clinton deserves both her ‘l’s.

  3. Dan,
    I just copied the example as it was.

    You’re right, of course. Headline writers and bloggers might take the trouble to check out the candidates’ websites on the chance that they use nontraditional spellings–as does Hillary.

  4. Charity,
    Yes, a tendency that seems to be growing. I think it’s a result of widespread cynicism and suspicion. Words, like people, are not to be trusted.

  5. ‘Than what’ is another one that drives me crazy. ‘Than’ is perfectly adequate without the ‘what’ that often follows it. i.e. “The weather today is 15 degrees warmer than what it was yesterday.”

  6. “Even Yet” is an example of what we call adverbial pollution. In most cases one of these two words can be “filtered out,” and in other cases, they can be “synthesized” into one, better word.

  7. Could I say, “Even at this time, there are children dying of hunger, malaria, and AIDS.”

    Dare I say, emphatically mind you, YES.

    With your ‘virtually interchangeable’ jazz, thusly it could also be said as, “Still at this time, there are children dying of hunger, malaria, and AIDS.” and still be correct, no?

    Though, it is pressing to put emphasis on the virtually bit of the equation.

    One of the definitions of ‘still’ is “at this (or that) time”, could I not thusly rephrase my sentence more succinctly as, “Even still children are dying of hunger, malaria, and AIDS.”?

    Or am I just missing the point?

  8. Maeve —

    This is a great, really useful article picking up on one of my all-time pet peeves. The British say “even so,” as a phrase meaning “taking that into account,” i.e. “even so, I don’t think what you’re saying is true.”
    Because we say “even so,” I think “even still” becomes even more complex when it enters UK English. It’s not used too much over here but whenever I hear it, it makes my teeth itch. As you say, “even still” is never, ever right… no matter what Monty thinks!

  9. I am under the impression that “even still” conveys a slightly different meaning for me than either “even so” or “still” and occasionally feels appropriate.

  10. These two sentences do not mean the same thing:
    She is even happier today than she was yesterday.
    She is still happier today than she was yesterday.

    At a basic level, they do. However, they imply different things. In context, they would not be interchangeable.

    In the first example, “even” is more interchangeable with “much” than “still”
    The second example suggests that her improved happiness is in spite of unmentioned factors, and that it could still stand to be better.

    Maybe it’s difficult to find examples where these two words have the same meaning because they don’t.

  11. It’s 6 years later, Charity, but I have to agree that the impulse to use ‘even still’ and ‘but yet’ is a kind of fear or doubt that one or the other word has enough contrastive power to carry it off, so we throw in another conjunction just because.
    I just heard a spotty CBC reporter gravely begin a sentence with “Even still,..” and wanted to add a link to my admonishing tweet to him and found this well-written post, cheers.

  12. I know this is a seven year old article but who cares?

    I just used “even still” and felt the need to do the research to find the validity of the statement and it was:

    “I put the new starter in [the car]; it took all day and I spent most of the time laying on the concrete trying to get it done. Even still, I have to tighten down one of the bolts; car starts though.”

    In this sense I could have changed “still” with “even now,” however, nevertheless, or still could have stood alone but in no way is it equivocal to saying “even even.” The purpose of “even” was to show the frustration of having something that still needs to be done after the work that was put in. Nevertheless I will have to keep it in mind as I am about to start school soon and I don’t want to embarrass myself. This good knowledge and I am glad to have found it even though I don’t believe it sounds unintelligent. If used correctly then it should simply intensify the here and now.

  13. Even still is working in the same manner as Even though… where still is unarguably equivalente to though. ie:
    (used in introducing a subordinate clause, which is often marked by ellipsis) notwithstanding that; in spite of the fact that; although:
    Though he tried very hard, he failed the course.
    even if; granting that (often preceded by even).
    for all that; however.
    as though, as if:
    It seems as though the place is deserted.

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