Among vs. Amongst
One of our readers, Tania Botha asked:
“When (if ever) must one use “amongst” – I systematically use “among” in my own writing and change it when editing other people’s texts, because “amongst” seems so old-fashioned. Is there a rule?”
You can use among and amongst interchangeably, but as Tania pointed out, among is more common in modern writing.
From Dr Grammar’s FAQs “Both are correct and mean the same, but among is more common.”
Some people try to distinguish between the two, but this really is a case when either word is valid. I’d recommend choosing whichever fits your piece of writing best: if you’re writing a fantasy story, or a piece of historical fiction, you might want:
- “As Tarquin stood amongst the great trees of the dark forest…”
But if you’re writing a news or feature article, you’ll probably go for:
- “If you’re among one of the biggest groups in society…”
- “Living among the Bush people taught me a lot…”
So yes, amongst does seem old-fashioned – but it’s still grammatically correct as an alternative to among. It’s up to you to select which you prefer!
Editor’s note: We had already touched on this issue in the past with the article Among/Amongst: Is there a Difference?.
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62 Responses to “Among vs. Amongst”
Although this thread is now pretty old, I just had to air my own opinion on this. Having read (most of) the comments here, I must say that I agree entirely with the last one by Jeff. I admit I may be wrong – as myriad Google searches seem to imply – but for me “amongst” has always had a feeling of “surrounded by, but not one of”, whereas “among” feels more like “being one of”, both regardless of the centrality of position, or even of whether or not the subjects are physically “together”. For example, I would say, “there was tension amongst the troops” but “the enemy is among us”, i.e. the enemy is (at least pretending to be) one of us. I have never, until today, come across anyone with the same opinion, despite working amongST seasoned erudite English language teachers! For what it’s worth, thank you Jeff for satisfying my need to know I’m not the only ‘crack-headed atom-splitter’!
@Dan… or maybe, as a writer, you could choose to use the word with the correct spelling and meaning, in preference to the other word! Humans as predators, and nature versus science? And you decide according to your sentence or phrase? Really? “A” gets used before a word starting with a consonant, and “an” gets used before a word that starts with a vowel. There’s conservation of energy for you – you don’t even have to think about that one. “Among” is “one of” – “amongst” is “shared between” or “surrounded by”.