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Sunday, 26 September 2010

Between or Among

Cropped screenshot of Marilyn Monroe from the ...Image via Wikipedia
Away from all things computer at present. So, I’m keeping things going with scheduled blogs dealing with the language we use as writers. I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t reply to any comments for the time being, but I’m having a very well-earned (yes, really!) rest from work for a couple of weeks.


When to use Between or Among.


between: involving members of a group, two items that are related, with shares to each, in the interval, (strictly speaking, if something is between two other things, it cannot also be one of those things – so, if the sentence is ‘Pick a number between 2 and 4.’ You actually have a choice of 3 only. If the writer or speaker intended to give you a choice of 2, 3, & 4, the sentence should be either, ‘Pick a number between 1 and 5.’ Or, ‘Pick a number from 2 to 4.’)  ‘Between the Devil and the deep blue sea, I know which I’d choose; and it wouldn't be that cold wet one.’


among: three or more things related, in the middle of.  (Again, strictly speaking, between should be used if referring to two items and among if describing three or more. However, language is organic and usage is allowing the two terms to become synonymous; not something I applaud, but something I accept as evidence of the laziness of most people when using language.)  ‘Among the four of us, Marilyn Monroe is by far the most beautiful.’
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