‘Among’ and ‘between’

Corp Law Blog calls this ‘the most trivial issue ever discussed on Corp Law Blog’. (I hope he doesn’t read this blog!):

The Anthem/WellPoint merger agreement contains much of interest to Corp Law Blog readers. So what’s the first thing I noticed? Read the following introductory paragraph to the agreement and see if you can guess:

AGREEMENT AND PLAN OF MERGER, dated as of October 26, 2003 (this “Agreement”), among Anthem, Inc., an Indiana corporation (“Purchaser”), Anthem Holding Corp., an Indiana corporation and a direct wholly owned subsidiary of Purchaser (“Merger Sub”), and WellPoint Health Networks Inc., a Delaware corporation (“Company”).

The simplistic rule ‘between’ for two parties and ‘among’ for more than two is questioned. Strunk and White:

When more than two things or persons are involved, among is usually called for: “The money was divided among the four players.” When, however, more than two are involved but each is considered individually, between is preferred: “an agreement between the six heirs.”

Corp Law Blog (Mike O’Sullivan) says that wherever parties are to be regarded as distinct, ‘between’ should be used, and when they are treated collectively, ‘among’.

2 thoughts on “‘Among’ and ‘between’

  1. That’s a good general rule to keep in mind. My favorite style guide, the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, says “James A.H. Murray in the OED says it as clearly and succinctly as anyone: ‘It [between] is still the only word available to express the relation of a thing to many surrounding things severally and individually, among expressing a relation to them collectively and vaguely…'” They add: “it is difficult for a native speaker of English who is not distracted by irrelevant considerations to misuse the two words.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *