Communication 101

Among vs. Amongst: Differences, Uses, and More!

June 7, 2022

People often confuse “among”and “amongst.” Or, more accurately, people often think they confuse the two words when they really mean the same thing. Among is much more popular overall. However, amongst is still common amongst the Brits (see what we did there?). 

Both words are prepositions referring to being in the middle of or surrounded by the object of the preposition. They can also mean “with a share for each,” “so as to influence,” “in the midst of,” and “mutually,” among other meanings.

Poised wants to clear up any uncertainties you may have about among and amongst so that you can rest easy as you communicate with your colleagues: 

What Does Among Mean?

Among is to be in the midst of, in company with, or surrounded by, among several other meanings. Technically, among and amongst are interchangeable. 

Though amongst might seem more archaic to American English speakers, among is the older word, with its roots dating back to old English (circa 1000 CE). The word amongst didn't emerge until Middle English (circa 1200 CE). In this era, sounds were added to specific words in the English language to form adverbs. Examples of such words in modern English include always, once, and unawares.

To convey that something is surrounded by something else, you could say, "She was among friends while grieving." To express that something is in the middle of something else, you could say, "He stood among the trees in the forest."

The word among is also used two divide objects between three or more people. For instance: “There are plenty of doughnuts left over. You can divide them among yourselves."

What Part of Speech Is Among?

Among is a preposition, meaning it conveys a relationship between the components of a clause. Prepositions connect various parts of a sentence, and they are always placed directly in front of their objects.

English prepositions are highly idiomatic, and proper use depends upon fixed expressions more than strict grammar rules. Prepositions can show time, direction, place, spatial relationships, and location. They can even introduce objects.

Other common prepositions include:

  • In
  • At
  • Of
  • To
  • On
  • From
  • For
  • Below
  • Next to
  • Opposite

Among is a preposition that indicates place. It's most aptly used to describe an object that’s close to a specific point, as in: "There are weeds among the garden bed." 

How To Use Among in a Sentence

We’ve already provided a few illustrations of how among is properly used in a sentence. To highlight the variety of uses, let’s take a look at 12 more example sentences with among as a preposition:

  1. The astronauts were regarded as heroes among men upon returning from space.
  2. I don't think I can choose among all of these jerseys!
  3. They sat among the cypress trees.
  4. I've got so much to do today, but getting dinner with you is among my priorities.
  5. Among other things, the organization hopes to supply the region with Starlink Internet service.
  6. He is my friend and would never steal from me; there is honor among thieves.
  7. I count Pad Thai among the most delicious dishes.
  8. Did you know that you can swim among the dolphins in specific places in Costa Rica? 
  9. You might be in for a rude awakening when you discover how your influence has diminished among those who once followed you.

What Does Amongst Mean?

Remember that amongst and among are variants of the same preposition. Though it's generally less common, amongst usually means to be surrounded by or in the middle of. Regional preferences and personal style ultimately dictate which preposition is best. 

Many writers and speakers use amongst to achieve a formal or sophisticated style. It’s also frequently used in poems and dramas. Among is a popular choice for colloquial writing and casual conversation. 

Certain grammar and writing style guides suggest employing amongst when the preposition precedes a word that starts with a vowel. Some also imply that it's better to start a sentence with amongst than among.

Furthermore, amongst is often criticized for being stuffy or formal, if not pretentious. Again, it comes down to preference more than following any hard-and-fast grammar rules.

You may come across the term “amoungst” at some point. Understand that this is not technically a misspelling but an archaic form of amongst. It's been a long time since amoungst was used in English grammar, and you should never use it in any of your writings.

What Part of Speech Is Amongst?

As with among, amongst is a preposition. This means it connects nouns, pronouns, or phrases to other words in a sentence. Prepositions link people, objects, locations, times, and other concepts and usually appear in front of nouns. Occasionally, you'll see a preposition preceding a gerund verb.

The simplest way to understand prepositions is that they act as the glue that holds sentences together. They express time, possession, position, movement, and how an action is performed.

Is Amongst an Out-of-Date Word?

It would be hard to say that amongst is an outdated word because it didn't emerge until about 200 years after the word among. The fact that amongst sounds more archaic than among may lead some people to view it as out of date. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The word amongst is still heavily used in British English and occasionally in American English.

Amongst could come across as a bit unnatural in American writing and speaking, especially in workplace scenarios. While among is always more common (no matter the English dialect), amongst is still used to get the same points across. If you're worried about sounding pretentious or even incorrect, stick with among for your everyday usage.

How To Use Amongst in a Sentence

So, just how stuffy and overrefined does the word amongst sound in a sentence? Here are 12 example sentences. You can decide for yourself!

  1. Amongst all of the commotion at the party, I forgot to grab my wallet.
  2. The lady loved to sit amongst the wildflowers in the nearby field.
  3. I couldn't find the document amongst all the clutter in my office.
  4. The Jayhawks and the Blue Devils are amongst the remaining four teams.
  5. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves.
  6. They think they are collaborating on a project, but they are essentially fighting amongst themselves. 
  7. Should we divide the extra cookies amongst all the attendees?
  8. The test scores reveal that she is amongst the top 10% of students in her class.
  9. I know that DVD is somewhere amongst all of the boxes in the attic.

Should You Use the Word Amongst in 2022?

Remember that using amongst or among ultimately comes down to personal style and regional convention. Among is much more popular in modern English and rather uncommon in American writing and speaking. However, if you are writing poetry, drama, or other genres that showcase a more sophisticated style, the occasional amongst might work well.

Regarding virtual meetings and other work functions in 2022, it's probably best to stick with among. Nonetheless, letting amongst slip out now and then is not going to make or break your presentation.

Among or Between?

Between is another preposition that shares similarities with among. Unlike amongst, between differs slightly in meaning. Language experts suggest that writers and speakers use between to refer to two things and among to refer to more than two things. Sticking to that general rule should help you use these prepositions correctly in most cases, though it’s not a foolproof principle.

Between has its roots in Old English, having emerged shortly after among. It's related to the word “twā” (meaning "two").

While it is generally recommended to use between in reference to two items, the earliest usage of the preposition involved more than two things. For example, the Bible uses between in reference to the Apostles. 

Between is typically used to express a relation to individual things and to imply equality between entities. You can also use between to describe a point between two places or movement between two specific locations. Among works better for referring to things imprecisely and collectively.

Consider these sentences:

  • Between the two of them, John was the better listener.
  • She was somewhere between New York and Boston. 
  • Among the five players, Tracy was the most experienced.

Improve Your Communication in Real-Time

Some grammatical details are not worth sweating, and choosing between among and amongst is probably one of those. Keep in mind that most Americans use among while amongst is more common in the British language. Besides that, both words mean the same thing and have the same impact on a message.

As you continue to stretch your vocabulary and hone your speaking skills, take advantage of communication software like Poised. Our AI-powered coach will help you boost your performance in real-time without any other meeting participants knowing about it. 

Sources:

Prepositions - English Composition | Kellogg

Among and Amongst - English Grammar Today | Cambridge Dictionary

Old English language | History, Characteristics, Examples, & Facts | Britannica

Middle English Language Explained | ThoughtCo

Gerund | Purdue Online Writing Lab

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