Among vs. Amongst
Have you ever wondered that when you are among friends, you usually talk amongst yourselves, right? Or sometimes do you feel confused that it should be the other way around?
Well, let me assure you that Among and amongst are just two variations of the same word. Much like many similar words Among is more frequently used in American English, while amongst is more accepted used almost exclusively in British English.
Among is more often used in American English
E.g., He distributed the sweets among themselves.
Amongst is more accepted used almost exclusively in British English
E.g., They were talking amongst themselves.
History and Meaning
Amongst is sometimes considered more archaic to speakers of American English, but the reality is that among is actually the older word. This word dates back to Old English (circa 1000 CE). Amongst, came into existence in the language during the Middle English (circa 1200 CE).
Like mentioned above, both are synonyms and they share the same meaning. They actually indicate something being surrounded by or something which is in the middle of something and it certainly serves as the object of the preposition.
They are playing among friends there.
You must distribute the cookies amongst yourselves.
Both the terms are acceptable and grammatically correct in any of these cases. But for many the only matter of consideration can be a matter of stylistic preference.
Like, among is more commonly accepted in both American and British English. But in British English, amongst is definitely acceptable in most uses but among is generally preferred. Most of the British publications, including major newspapers, will follow a style guide and use among more often.
But according to many older grammar guides, amongst is the appropriate choice before a vowel. Remember that the word’s actual use in modern English doesn’t bear this out. It actually dates back to a time in English when -s was added to some words in order to create adverbs.
Another very close example of this same notion can be whilst and amidst. They are also very much acceptable in British English than in American speech or writing. Most of the old grammar books will give you the same instruction.
In this case, let’s look a literary example from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice where amongst is used:
“Her aunt now called her to look at a picture. She approached and saw the likeness of Mr. Wickham, suspended, amongst several other miniatures, above the mantelpiece.”
Here, the word amongst is placed for one small painting in the middle of similar paintings. This is why it’s grammatically correct. But you can also replace it with the word among without any loss of meaning or style.
Please keep in mind that for both speech and writing, among and amongst are interchangeable. They are both grammatically correct and mean the same thing. But most Americans consider amongst as old-fashioned or pretentious, so you may want to avoid it while catering to American audience.
So, there you have it. The difference between “among” and “amongst”. Let us know if you have any other queries.