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Are You Between or Among?

What’s a little joke between friends? Assuming there are just two of you, between is correct. But if you’re talking about a broader circle of friends, you’ll want to use among.

Often people think between is used only when referring to two persons, objects, or groups. It’s true that when the choice is between two distinct options, between is the right choice.

  • Edith couldn’t decide between the red or the black dress.
  • Jeremy’s college choice was between Harvard and Yale.

But between is also correct when there are more than two options. CMOS explains it this way: Between is “perfectly appropriate for more than two objects if multiple one-to-one relationships are understood from the context.” Continue Reading…

Who Needs Any More Trouble with Anymore?

I don’t want to spend any more time on this than is necessary, but we should touch on any more and anymore. One word or two? That depends on what you want to communicate and if you’re using British or American English.

Standard American English recognizes two distinct meanings:

Any more (two words) is an adjective phrase meaning “any additional.”

  • I don’t want any more coffee.

Anymore is an adverb meaning “any longer” or “nowadays” or “still.” It can be used in a negative sense:

  • I don’t drink coffee anymore.

Or in a positive sense:

  • Do you carry coffee anymore in this store?

Another way of thinking of the distinction between the two, according to Bryan Garner (Modern American Usage), is to use anymore to indicate time and any more for quantity or degree. Both are at play in this example:

  • I don’t drink coffee anymore because I don’t need any more caffeine.

British English is more likely to identify anymore as an alternative spelling of any more without acknowledging a distinction in meaning.

One final note. When you follow with the word than, always use the two-word any more.

  • I don’t like paying $3.50 for a cup of coffee any more than you do.

Okay, I won’t bother you anymore or give you any more examples!

Are You Altogether All Together?

Are you ready for another set of words that are often confusing?

All ready and already are often wrongly used. One is an adjective phrase and one is an adverb. And the fact that I told you one is a phrase is a big hint.

All ready is the adjective phrase, meaning completely ready.

  • MaryLou was all ready for Christmas by December 15.

Already is an adverb meaning “prior to a specified or implied time,” or “as early as now.”

  • “Have you wrapped the gifts already?” Alan wailed. (so soon?)
  • “The gifts were already wrapped and put under the tree last week,” MaryLou explained.

A similar troublesome pair is all together and altogether. Here again, one is a phrase and the other a single adverb.

All together is the adverb phrase meaning “in a group” or “everyone.”

  • The neighbors went caroling all together.
  • MaryLou’s soprano led the group. “All together now. Let’s start with ‘Joy to the World.’”

Altogether is also an adverb that means “entirely” or “completely.”

  • They were altogether exhausted after walking through the snowdrifts and singing for an hour.

It can also mean “all included,” “all counted,” or “all told.”

  • There were twenty-two carolers altogether.

Or, “on the whole” or  “all things considered.”

  • Altogether, they considered the evening a success.

If you can substitute completely or all in for altogether, you’ve got the right word. But if you can rewrite the sentence using all together separately, then that’s the way to go.