I've never understood this, and even the head of the English department at my grammar (as in selective secondary, not as in sentence structure ) school didn't know how to differentiate between them. Are there any points in which one cannot use one or the other of these? I have always used either, though I tend to use the "st" versions, purely because I prefer the sound.
Thanks for your help.
1 comment The references I checked say that whilst is chiefly British, but is interchangeable with while in meaning. One (American) dictionary calls whilst "archaic". So whilst Americans might avoid it, it's probably standard in England.
Amongst is just a variant of among. Webster's Dictionary of English Usage adds:
Amidst is just an alternative form of amid. Webster's says:
Most of the commentators who mention these words note that amongst is less common but both are correct. Our evidence confirms this; it also shows amongst a bit more common in British use than American.
Both forms are in frequent use; you can use whichever sounds better to you.
Looking for ESL work?: Try our EFL / TOEFL / ESL Jobs Section!
Hmm, that's fair enough. I'm British, so that would probably explain why I tend to favour the "st" options. It's good to see that I haven't been mistaking the usage of these, as well.
Thanks for your help.
Really? Very few people in Britain would use whilst, amongst or amidst in normal conversation. It is seen as a sort of 'poetic' language.
Are these words common in the written language?
My reference has a copyright of 1989. Usages could have changed.
Amidst sounds normal even to me, an American.
There is a comment in OED about "amidst" saying : There is a tendency to use "amidst" more distributively than "amid", e.g. of things scattered about, or a thing moving, in the midst of others. But as far as I checked on Google, I could not detect this tendency in the current English.
I don't know anybody who uses the "st" forms of these words. They sound like words from a foreign language to me. Well, that may be an exaggeration. Of the three, "amidst" seems the least objectionable in American English; "whilst", the most.
Personally, as an American lawyer living in Britain, I would like to see "whilst" come back into American English for the meaning "during the time of/when/as" and have "while" be reserved, both in British and American English, for a substitute for "although" or "whereas." In formal legal American scholarly English (FLASE), we do not permit "since" to mean "because" or "whereas" -- it is propertly restricted to the time domain. Those of us who care about such things should adopt this temporal restriction for at least "whilst" leaving "while" to serve non-temporal needs!!
Join the whilst/while revolution whilst you can!!! We are the keepers of the language, and while I am not an English scholar, I am a consumer/producer in the English language economy. Empower ourselves now -- whilst we can!!
Chasm (soon to have an account with this name)
Welcome to the forum, Chasm!
I agree that whilst, amongst, and amidst have a nice sound, and whilst could have a useful, separate application.
But I think the language is a 500 pound gorilla -- it will become whatever it wants to.