Grandma's Tales

March 15, 2007

Grammar 31 – Between you AND me

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 11:40 pm

It’s time we decided whether we want to speak (and write) grammatically correct English or not. To do that we need to doubt ourselves.
My Prof would say, “Only two kinds of students have zero doubts. Those who have studied thoroughly and those who are clueless.” Since a majority of us can’t get into the first group, we should prefer to be doubters. That way, we might check what we say.
I wonder if our English news channel reporters will ever see themselves as doubters. They should. Especially when they do not know the use of the preposition “between”. Reporting on the new student discipline measure at IIT – Mumbai, the breathless reporter said, “Students will have no access to the Internet in their rooms between 11 pm to 8 am.” “Between” here should have “and” following it, not “to”.
My husband said, “She’s saying that only because she’s speaking fast. If she had time to choose her words, she wouldn’t make this mistake.” My husband is very kind to young girls.  I should tell you he’s only a little older to Amitabh Bachchan. He’s all for giving them a second… a third… chance. I am not so generous.

Generally, “between” (short for “by twain (two)”) is used when two people or things are involved.
Between you and me, I think it’s an idiotic idea.
He divided the property between the two sons.

“Between” should be followed by a plural noun or pronoun, or by nouns and/or pronouns joined by “and”:
There will be fireworks between the two innings.
Tickets are sold out for matches between India and Pakistan.

Nonstandard: I couldn’t decide between channel A or B.
Standard: I couldn’t decide between channels A and B.

It is true that between is the only choice when exactly two entities are specified. For example, you must say the choice between (not among) good and evil and the rivalry between (not among) India and Pakistan.
What if you do not know how many entities are involved? Then your choice depends on exactly what you want to say.
You use between when the entities are considered as distinct individuals. In the sentence The bullet landed between the streets, either you are assuming there are two streets or the streets form the boundaries of the area where the bullets fell. The bullet did not land on any of the individual houses. Again the sentence, a series of games between the Asian teams, tells you to understand that each team is an independent participant in the tournament.
“Use between when the entities are seen as determining the limits or endpoints of a range: They searched the area between the river, the farmhouse, and the woods. The truck driver had obviously been drinking between stops.”  “Students couldn’t use the Internet between 11 pm and 8 am.”
So write, They had a choice between talking to the farmers and losing the elections. Using between … or instead is incorrect.
If you are in the habit of writing between with each or every, count me out of your friends’ list. Do you commit the daily sin of saying “there will be three days’ interval between each/every match”? Only the divine will forgive you. “Each” and “every” stand for one. You cannot be between just one – unless you are a spirit. No, I don’t accept the excuse “It is a convenient way of saying “between each match and the next” or “considering how common it is, only stuck-up people will object.”
I may be stuck-up, but I am not accepting something that’s so clearly wrong. Between …..each/every is wrong. Period.
Of course there are other ways of expressing it. Try “three-day intervals between matches” or “three days’ interval after each match”. (you are using “each” and no “between”)
So: If between is followed by a conjunction, this must always be a simple and. No, you don’t have a choice. Don’t ask “and”,“or” or “to”? It’s “and” or nothing.
Never construct sentences like 1.”We had to choose between taking these candidates and making the best of them and between perhaps finding ourselves with no candidates at all”. That’s a poor architectural job. The sentence has become so involved that and is not felt to be enough. Recast it.<!–[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]–>

Also, see if you can set the following sentences right.
2. It is thought that the choice lies between Mr. Trygve Lie continuing for another year or the election of Mr. Lester Pearson.
3. The curfew was between 10 pm to 6 am.
4. Students will have no access to the Internet in their rooms between 11 pm to 8 am.


  1. 1. It is thought that the choice lies between Mr.Trygvie Lie continuing for another year and the election of Mr.Lester Pearson.

    2. The curfew was between 10am and 6pm

    3. The Students will have no access to Internet in their rooms between 11pm and 8am.

    Comment by bravi2 — March 29, 2007 @ 11:15 am | Reply

  2. Bravo bravi2! All correct!

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — March 29, 2007 @ 8:52 pm | Reply

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