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1) How to add space between every word when typing into Word?

2) There is a marked line between each person in this row.

I believe usages of 'between each/every' in the contexts above are nothing out of the ordinary. But the logic behind it has always struck me as odd. 'Between', by definition, should logically be followed by a binary phrase (involving two entities). Yet, there doesn't seem to be a clearer way to express those two example sentences without shifting the focus: I could say 'between every two persons' in the second example but that would clearly lead to some confusion.

So is this just a case of idiomatic dictation, or are there better ways to phrase these example sentences? Many thanks in advance.

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    I'd guess it's a case of elision, with the full version being, for example, between each letter and it's neighbours. Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 17:25
  • Are you sure between relates to only two items? Source?
    – Xanne
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 19:44
  • Consider, for example, "A study of the multiple reflections of short electric waves between two or more reflecting surfaces" (and many similar); and Article III section 2 U.S. Constitution "controversies between two or more states"
    – Xanne
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 20:30
  • 1
    2: There is a marked line from each person to the next in this row.
    – closeparen
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 21:28

3 Answers 3

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Just saying “between each letter” raises the question of between each letter and what other thing? Between always involves more than one thing.

What you mean here is clear enough to most readers, but perhaps it would be more felicitous to write “between each pair of letters” — or more simply, just “between letters”.

Either of those work to provide between with more than one argument. However, don’t worry about the arguments provided being exactly two; they don’t necessarily need to be. That’s a myth. It is a fallacy to assume that between has only two entities. It simply is not true.

Quoth the OED:

In all senses, between has been, from its earliest appearance, extended to more than two.

Only the case-of-one doesn’t make any sense:

  1. *Between your mother, they’ll come up with something.
  2. Between your mom and dad, they’ll come up with something.
  3. Between the three of us, we’ll come up with something.

All the other cases — including all your nieces and nephews and cousins and aunts and uncles — are all of them just fine.

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Another way of getting around this problem would be rephrasing those sentences using the word ‘successive’:

1) How to add a space between successive words...

2) There is a marked line between successive people...

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  1. How to add space between words when typing into Word?

  2. There are marked lines between the persons in this row.

https://www.etymonline.com/word/between

For a pedant like me, "between each" and "between every" are clangers. As the etymology proves, "between" should apply only to binary instances. But the language is full, FULL, of common misuses that are also commonly and correctly understood. So I cringe in silence, while consistently using "among" for more than two, and "between" for exactly two.

And don't get me started on "falling between the cracks." That's where the floorboards are, for heaven's sake; things fall through the cracks!

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