Monthly Archives: June 2013

Between (or among?) friends …

This week we discuss two prepositions—between and among.  (As you know, a preposition links nouns, pronouns, and phrases to other words in a sentence.  My 11th grade English teacher gave me this trick for determining whether a word is a preposition; if it fits into this sentence—“I ran [blank] the houses”—then it is a preposition.)  As a general rule, “between” is used when the sentence involves two things or when it expresses a close relationship of any number of individual things, e.g.,

  • The jury had to decide between awarding money damages and rescinding the contract.
  • His attention was divided between baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie.

By contrast, “among” is generally used when the sentence involves more than two things and does not express a close relationship, e.g.,

  • His present dalliance was just one among many.
  • Dee’s estate was divided among her three children.

A more specific rule:  “Between” is used to express one-to-one relations of many things, e.g., a treaty between four nations.  “Among” is used to express collective and undefined relations, e.g.,

  • In 1988, Hershiser was voted the best among all National League pitchers.

That is all for now …

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Ending sentences with a preposition …

My favorite birthday card of all time had the following exchange between two high school girls:

First girl:  Where’s your birthday party at?

Second girl:  You shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition.

First girl:  Where’s your birthday party at, brat?

Friends, there are a million myths about the rules of writing.  One such myth involves the supposed prohibition against ending sentences with a preposition.  Here is what the Chicago Manual of Style has to says about that “rule”:

The traditional caveat of yesteryear against ending sentences with prepositions is, for most writers, an unnecessary and pedantic restriction.  As Winston Churchill famously said, “That is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I shall not put.”  A sentence that ends in a preposition may sound more natural than a sentence carefully constructed to avoid a final preposition.  Compare Those are the guidelines an author should adhere to with Those are the guidelines to which an author should adhere. The “rule” prohibiting terminal prepositions was an ill-founded superstition.

Because I can’t say it any better than that, that is all for now …

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