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Among vs. Amongst: Understanding the Key Differences

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Diving into the intricacies of the English language often reveals subtle nuances that can perplex even the most astute linguists. Two such words that frequently lead to debate are “among” and “amongst.” Seemingly interchangeable, these prepositions are sprinkled throughout English literature and everyday speech, yet they carry their own distinct flavors. In this article, we’ll explore the usage, and contemporary views on “among” and “amongst,” shedding light on when and how to use each word correctly, ensuring that you navigate the English language with confidence and precision.

Among vs. Amongst

Among vs. Amongst: Understanding the Key Differences

Among vs. Amongst: the Overview

Definition of Among

“Among” is a preposition that is used to describe a relationship between two or more things. It is often used to describe a situation where something is in the middle of a group or surrounded by other things.

For example, consider the sentence “The book was hidden among the other books on the shelf.” In this case, “among” is used to describe the location of the book in relation to the other books on the shelf.

One of the key characteristics of “among” is that it is often followed by a plural noun. This is because it is typically used to describe a relationship between multiple things. For example, “The children were playing among the toys in the playroom.”

It’s worth noting that “among” is more commonly used than “amongst” in American English. However, both words have the same meaning and can be used interchangeably in most situations.

Definition of Amongst

“Amongst” is a preposition that means “in the midst of” or “surrounded by.” It is used to describe a position of something or someone in a group or community.

For example, “She was amongst the crowd at the concert” means that she was in the middle of the crowd, surrounded by other people. Another example is, “The book was hidden amongst the other books in the library,” which means that the book was located in the middle of the other books on the shelf.

Although “amongst” is less commonly used than “among,” it is still considered a valid word and can be used interchangeably with “among.” However, it is worth noting that “amongst” is more commonly used in British English than in American English.

It is also important to note that “amongst” is not always interchangeable with “among.” For example, when we talk about a group of people, we use “among,” not “amongst.” For example, “He was among the group of students” is correct, but “He was amongst the group of students” is not.

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Grammatical Rules for Among

When using “among,” it is important to keep in mind the following grammatical rules:

  • “Among” is a preposition that means “in the middle of” or “surrounded by.” It is used to describe the position of one thing in relation to a group of other things.

Example sentence: You are among the best writers in the world.

  • “Among” is usually followed by a plural noun.

Example sentence: The book was hidden among the other books on the shelf.

  • “Among” can also be used to describe a relationship between multiple things.

Example sentence: The treaty was among the many issues discussed at the conference.

  • “Among” is more commonly used in American English than “amongst.”

Example sentence: You will find many opportunities among the various career paths.

  • “Among” is not used to describe a relationship between two things. Instead, “between” is used.

Example sentence: The conversation was between the two of them.

  • “Among” can be used with a singular noun if the noun refers to a group of people or things.

Example sentence: The teacher was among the first to arrive at the meeting.

  • “Among” is not used to describe a physical location.

Example sentence: The store is located between the bank and the post office.

The table below summarizes the grammatical rules for “among” and provides examples of correct usage:

Grammatical Rule Example Sentence
Used to describe position You are among the best writers in the world.
Followed by plural noun The book was hidden among the other books on the shelf.
Used to describe relationship between multiple things The treaty was among the many issues discussed at the conference.
More commonly used in American English You will find many opportunities among the various career paths.
Not used to describe relationship between two things The conversation was between the two of them.
Can be used with singular noun referring to a group The teacher was among the first to arrive at the meeting.
Not used to describe physical location The store is located between the bank and the post office.

Grammatical Rules for Amongst

Preposition Usage

“Amongst” is a preposition that means the same thing as “among.” It is used to indicate that something is included in a group or category. Here are some examples of correct usage:

  • You are amongst friends.
  • The book is amongst the others on the shelf.
  • The house is hidden amongst the trees.

Plural Nouns

“Amongst” is typically followed by a plural noun. For example:

  • The group of friends was sitting amongst the crowd.
  • The flowers were hidden amongst the bushes.
  • The lost keys were amongst the clutter on the desk.

Formal Writing

While “amongst” is a perfectly acceptable word to use in informal writing and speech, it is less common in formal writing. If you are writing an academic paper or a business report, it is generally better to use “among” instead of “amongst.”

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Comparing “Among” and “Amongst”

Here is a quick comparison of “among” and “amongst” to help you understand the difference:

Among Amongst
More common in American English More common in British English
Used in both formal and informal writing More commonly used in informal writing
Followed by singular or plural nouns Typically followed by plural nouns

Among vs. Amongst: What’s the Difference?

Firstly, “among” is more commonly used in American English, while “amongst” is more common in British English. However, both words are acceptable in either dialect, so it ultimately comes down to personal preference.

Secondly, “among” is used when referring to a group of people or things that are not specifically named. For example, “The book was hiding among the other books on the shelf.” On the other hand, “amongst” is used when referring to a specific group of people or things that are named. For example, “The cat was hiding amongst the pillows on the bed.”

Thirdly, “among” is used when referring to a group of people or things that are considered to be part of the same group or category. For example, “The new employee quickly found her place among the team.” On the other hand, “amongst” is used when referring to a group of people or things that are considered to be distinct or separate from each other. For example, “The politician was able to find common ground amongst the various interest groups.”

Finally, “amongst” is often used in more formal or literary contexts. For example, “The knight rode amongst the trees, searching for his lost love.” In contrast, “among” is more commonly used in everyday speech and writing. For example, “The teacher walked among the students, checking their work.”

Practical Usage in Modern English

In modern English, among and amongst are both used as prepositions to indicate being a part of a group or something that is surrounded by other things. However, among is more commonly used in American English, while amongst is more common in British English. Here are some practical tips to help you decide which one to use:

  1. Use Among when referring to a group of three or more items or people. For example:
    • “The book was hidden among the pile of papers.”
    • “The movie was a hit among teenagers.”
  2. Use Amongst when referring to a group of people or things that are closely related or belong together. For example:
    • “The queen sat amongst her courtiers.”
    • “The flowers were hidden amongst the bushes.”
  3. Use Among when referring to a group of people or things that are not closely related or do not belong together. For example:
    • “She felt like a stranger among the crowd.”
    • “The book was lost among the other books on the shelf.”
  4. Use Among when referring to a group of people or things that are not specifically identified. For example:
    • “There was a sense of camaraderie among the team.”
    • “The company is among the top performers in the industry.”
  5. Use Amongst when referring to a group of people or things that are specifically identified. For example:
    • “The prize was shared amongst the three winners.”
    • “The toys were distributed amongst the children.”
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It is worth noting that amongst is considered to be slightly more formal than among, and is often used in more literary or poetic contexts. However, in everyday speech, among is perfectly acceptable and is often preferred for its simplicity and ease of use.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the definition of ‘among’?

‘Among’ is a preposition that means being a part of a group or in the middle of something. It is often used to indicate that something is surrounded by other things or people. For example, “The book was among the other books on the shelf.”

What is the definition of ‘amongst’?

‘Amongst’ is also a preposition that has the same meaning as ‘among’. However, it is less commonly used in American English and is more common in British English. For example, “The bird was flying amongst the trees.”

How do you use ‘amongst’ and ‘among’ in a sentence?

Both ‘amongst’ and ‘among’ can be used interchangeably in most cases. However, ‘amongst’ is more commonly used in British English. For example, “The flowers were scattered amongst the grass” or “The flowers were scattered among the grass.”

Is there a difference between ‘among’ and ‘amongst’ in AP Style?

No, there is no difference between ‘among’ and ‘amongst’ in AP Style. Both prepositions are considered to be interchangeable and can be used based on personal preference.

What does ‘amongst us’ mean?

‘Amongst us’ is an idiomatic expression that means within a particular group of people. For example, “There is a traitor amongst us.”

What is the meaning of ‘amidst’ and how does it differ from ‘amongst’?

‘Amidst’ is also a preposition that means in the middle of something. It is often used to describe a situation where something is surrounded by other things or people. The main difference between ‘amidst’ and ‘amongst’ is that ‘amidst’ is more formal and is commonly used in written English. For example, “The city was in chaos amidst the riots.”

Keep investigating:

'Among' is a preposition that means being a part of a group or in the middle of something. It is often used to indicate that something is surrounded by other things or people. For example, \"The book was among the other books on the shelf.\"

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'Amongst' is also a preposition that has the same meaning as 'among'. However, it is less commonly used in American English and is more common in British English. For example, \"The bird was flying amongst the trees.\"

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Both 'amongst' and 'among' can be used interchangeably in most cases. However, 'amongst' is more commonly used in British English. For example, \"The flowers were scattered amongst the grass\" or \"The flowers were scattered among the grass.\"

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'Amidst' is also a preposition that means in the middle of something. It is often used to describe a situation where something is surrounded by other things or people. The main difference between 'amidst' and 'amongst' is that 'amidst' is more formal and is commonly used in written English. For example, \"The city was in chaos amidst the riots.\"

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