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"Between" Versus "Among"

“Between” Versus “Among”

By
Mignon Fogarty,
February 4, 2010
Episode #207

Page 3 of 3

“Among” Versus “Amongst”

Finally, people sometimes ask about the difference between “among” and “amongst.” Both words mean the same thing, but “amongst” is the older form and is more commonly used in Britain than in the United States. It's considered archaic and overly formal or even pretentious in American English (5). The only time I can think of when it would be appropriate for an American writer to use it would be in fiction set in a different era or world. Something like:

Is it truly safe to walk amongst the peasants, my lord?

Dear listeners, I hope this trifling is amongst your favorites for the week.

 

References

1. Goldstein, N., ed. The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual. Reading: Perseus Books, 1998, p. 12.
2. The American Heritage College Dictionary. Third edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993, p. 132.
3. Burchfield, R.W., ed. The New Fowler's Modern English Usage. Third edition. New York: Oxford, 1996, p. 106.
4. Scharton, M., and Neuleib, J. Things Your Grammar Never Told You. New York: Longman, 2001, p. 61.
5. Garner, B. Garner's Modern American Usage, 3rd Edition. Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 42.

Web Bonus for Teachers

Choose the correct word. If you choose “either,” explain the different meanings you get when you use each word.

1. Gloria had to choose [between/among/either] band practice and writing for the newspaper.
[Answer: between]

2. The conversation [between/among/either] the teachers, the parents, and the students lasted for two hours.
[Answer: between]

3. She found her change [between/among/either] the cushions.
[Answer: either, but “between” indicates the coins were between two cushions, which is the more likely scenario, whereas “among” indicates the coins were in a pile of cushions.]

4. James was [between/among/either] the winners.
[Answer: either, but “between” indicates he was standing between two winners, whereas “among” indicates he was either one of the winner or in the midst of some winners.]

5. Gail and Dave are [between/among/either] the vacationers enjoying ice cream.
[Answer: either, but “between” indicates they are situated between two vacationers or groups of vacationers who are enjoying ice cream, whereas “among” indicates they are either enjoying ice cream themselves or are in the midst of a group of vacationers who are enjoying ice cream.]

6. Herbert is notorious [between/among/either] the locals.
[Answer: among]

7. The orchestra members talked [between/among/either] themselves.
[Answer: among]

Boy and Two Dogs image from Shutterstock

 

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