Amongst vs. Among

August 9, 2011

in Uncategorized

Whenever I write the word among, I always double take and think, should I be using amongst? There are times when amongst just seems to feel more appropriate, for example, “I sat amongst the trees and stared at the stars”. And conversely at times among seems appropriate, for example, “He was among many that died in the war”. So when should you use amongst vs. among?

The truth is that amongst is an entirely British thing, and according to the Oxford English Dictionary is:

less usual in the primary local sense than among, and, when so used, generally implying dispersion, intermixture, or shifting position.

Those of you who are British or have British friends may have heard the expression “to put the cat amongst the pigeons”. However, it is fine to say “to put the cat among the pigeons”.

There is no difference between the two, and if there was once a difference it has now faded into insignificance.

As Fowler said some years ago”

Such a distinction may be accepted on authority, but can hardly be made convincing by quotations even on the liberal scale of the OED.

British writers use their own discretion, and usage is based largely on keeping “amongst” alive and kicking. Americans will do well to stick with among, as amongst isn’t widely recognised or used often.

 

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Curious George August 13, 2012 at 1:36 am

“paled into existence” ?
Uh… wuh do dat meen?

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