How to distinguish between "amidst" and "amid"

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Is there any subtle difference between the words "amidst" and "amid"?

I find it hard to distinguish their usage.

 

Is there any clear guideline?

Likewise for the words "among" and "amongst"?

 

Is the word "amidst" and "amid" always used for uncountable noun;

and the word "among" and "amongst" for countable noun?

 

Thanks.

edited Jul 03 '12 at 13:57 Elijah New member

This question was answered by Mr. Jeff —an expert on my thread. I have copied it and pasted it on the answer forum.

sanjayJul 03 '12 at 16:25

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3 answers


1

These words are close synonyms, but are not exact synonyms. The difference is subtle and amidst (or amid) is often confused with among. My dictionary defines amidst as "being in the middle of or surrounded by something". Among is defined as "mingling or intermixing with distinct or separate objects". Among is often used in relationship to people, or when distinguishing among choices. He walked among the gnarled oak trees or Amidst the storm tossed sea, the small ship made slow progress toward port. But Amid fears of another recession, European leaders met to discuss the Greek debt crisis and not Among fears .... I found it difficult to choose from among the fine wines available but not choose from amid .... She enjoyed being among friends but not being amid friends ....

link comment answered Jul 03 '12 at 16:25 sanjay Expert
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These two prepositions are interchangeable in meaning, but among is far more frequent in American English; for some, amongst has a rather dusty-genteel quality. It occurs far more often in British English.

 

 

(1) The Oxford English Dictionary observes that among is often followed by a singular collective noun, especially if the noun is the name of a substance: among the straw; some lean among the fat. Plural objects of the preposition are of course very common: among the dozens of people; among the causes.

 

(2) Although among does occur occasionally with each other and one another, the far more usual (and better) choice is a plural -self pronoun: They agreed among [amongst] themselves; or, use with and each other, as in They agreed with each other.

link comment answered Jul 03 '12 at 16:28 sanjay Expert
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(Edit: I was going to point Elijah to last week's answer via the search feature, but Sanjay has copied it above.)

 

The differences between amidst and amid (or between amongst and among) is stylistic. Amidst and amid have identical meaning. Amidst is considered, in American usage, to be slightly archaic and pretentious. American students are taught, when confronted with a choice between two words, to use the shorter, simpler word. Nonetheless, the longer word is sometimes the better choice in terms of style

 

The same applies to amongst and among.

link comment edited Jul 03 '12 at 16:34 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

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