between vs among

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Did I ever tell you kids about the difference between "between" and "among"?



I can't remember either, but it's probably kind of mildly important, so I'll (possibly) repeat it:

Use "between" when you're referring to two things; use "among" when you're referring to more than two things.

That's about it. Really. No really--it's that easy.

What? Why would I lie about this?

Okay here're some examples:

Jim-Bob had to choose between his sister and the squirrel he loved.

The squirrel had to choose among Jim-Bob, Jim-Bob's sister, and its cache of acorns.

But while you're here and we're on the topic, ever wonder what the difference is between "among" and "amongst"?

I see people use "amongst" all the time, and I wonder if there's really any difference or if they're just being...uh...whatever attitude goes with attaching "st"s to the ends of words.

Anyway, as far as I can tell, there's no difference; the "st" is a holdover from the Middle English word "amonges," which probably means something like "co-mingle."