Is It Correct to Say “A Whole Nother”?

The phrase “a whole nother” is actually fairly common in English. But should it be? Is it actually correct, or is it just a slang term that has made its way into common speech?

In this post, we will discuss the concept of “a whole nother” and whether or not it is correct.

Is It Correct to Say “A Whole Nother”?

It is correct to say “a whole nother”, though it is informal. Grammatically, the process is called tmesis, in which a word is inserted into the middle of another word for added emphasis. “A whole nother” is not formally correct, but it is accepted as an informal phrase.

Is It Correct to Say “A Whole Nother”

That probably all sounds very confusing. Don’t worry, we’re going to explain it all. First of all, let’s start with the concept of tmesis. This may be something you do without even realizing it. Tmesis is when you insert one word into the middle of another word for added emphasis. Such as in:

  • Un-flipping-believable
  • Abso-freaking-lutely

Naturally, doing this is wrong from a strict technical grammar sense. If you wanted to follow the strictest rules of English, you shouldn’t do this. But when it comes to actual speech, informality is far more common than adhering to those strict rules. Informally, tmesis is perfectly acceptable.

This leads us to “a whole nother”. Some people mistakenly assume that the phrase is three separate words. But this is not the case. “A whole nother” is actually an example of tmesis, with the word “whole” being added into the middle of the word “another” for emphasis.

The reason this is not immediately obvious to some people is because “a whole nother” is often not hyphenated like the previous examples, even though it should be. The phrase just means that there is “another” of something, with emphasis on how separate it is from another thing.

So, “a whole nother” is correct to say, at least informally. But if you aren’t comfortable with it, we’ve compiled a list of what to say instead of “a whole nother” in the following section.

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Other Ways to Say “A Whole Nother”

Other ways to say “a whole nother” are “that’s something else entirely, entirely different”, and “on a different level”. These synonyms all mean the same thing, implying that there is “another” thing separate from the first that is either unrelated to it or somehow significantly different from it.

There are some other phrases that can be used, of course. However, these three are some of the most common. We’ll discuss all of the various options down below.

1. That’s Something Else Entirely

“That’s something else entirely” is a good way to indicate that whatever “another” you are referring to is not related to the first thing being discussed. “Entirely” is used to indicate that the separation is complete and that the two things really aren’t connected in any meaningful way.

  • I know we were talking about freedom, but being able to do literally anything you want is something else entirely.
  • An oranges is a fruit, but a potato? That’s something else entirely.

2. Entirely Different

“Entirely different” is an easy way to say that one thing is completely separate from another. In this way, it can be used as a synonym for “ a whole nother” in most contexts. Few people will be confused by what you mean, and it’s a nice, concise phrase, which is always nice.

  • I’m good at English, but math is an entirely different beast.
  • That’s an entirely different problem, buddy.

3. On a Different Level

“On a different level” is a little different from the other synonyms. It does not imply that the “another” is completely different from the first thing being discussed. Rather, it implies that the “another” is actually related or similar, but that it exists to a different degree.

  • I like driving, but professional racing is on a different level.
  • Lots of people are smart, but Albert Einstein was on a different level.

4. Totally Different

“Totally different” is an easy way to indicate that the “another” is not related to the first thing being discussed at all. In this way, it can effectively work as a substitute for “a whole nother”, if you mean the phrase in that context in the first place.

  • I believe in fighting for a good cause, but wars of aggression are totally different.
  • Cars are cars, but a Ferrari is totally different from the run of the mill options.

5. Another Thing Entirely

“Another thing entirely” is much like the other synonyms in the fact that it simply gives you another way of separating two things. They don’t have to be completely unrelated, but there needs to be enough of a difference to perceive the two things as not being truly similar at all.

  • Both an airliner and a jet may be a plane, but a military jet is another thing entirely.
  • You may have a problem with paying attention in class, but your willful disobedience is another thing entirely.

6. Something Completely Different

“Something completely different” is just another way of saying that two things are either unrelated, or that they exist to different degrees. This makes it a perfect synonym for “a whole nother”. It can be used in the same way as all of the other synonyms on this list.

  • Disliking someone is one thing, but trying to hurt them is something completely different.
  • Arguing is bad, but physically fighting is something completely different, you know?

7. Not Even the Same

“Not even the same” is a synonym phrase for “a whole nother” that functions by creating separation between two things in some capacity. It is generally used when two things seem similar on the surface, but in reality, they are very different from one another.

  • They may both be fruits, but apples and oranges are not even the same.
  • A monkey may look like a gorilla, but they are not even the same.

8. Another Thing Altogether

“Another thing altogether” is a good synonym for “a whole nother”. It means the same thing, indicating that two things in a situation are not truly similar, even if they have some superficial similarities. You could also use “altogether” to imply that two things are the same, but to different degrees.

  • Sparring is one thing, but a real fight is another thing altogether.
  • I’m not scared of fish, but a shark is another thing altogether.